Three Mahwah Schools Performing At Below-Proficient Levels
Board hires tutors, recommends hiring new teachers to raise test scores
The Mahwah school district will be taking measures to improve students’ test scores because “scores on state assessments are simply not terrific,” interim Superintendent Dr. Karen Lake said at Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Three of the district’s six schools did not meet their “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP goals, and one school – Joyce Kilmer – has not been able to reach those standards for four years.
For state exams like the NJASK, “the state sets the bar as to what scores are proficient, above that and below,” Lake explained. “Some of our schools came in with too high a percentage of students scoring below the proficiency level.”
According to results released by the state last month, nearly 37 percent of third grade students at Lenape Meadows were not proficient in Language Arts. This was the highest concentration of below-proficient scores in any one grade level, however Lake said certain scores at Joyce Kilmer and Ramapo Ridge Middle School also did not make the grade.
Mahwah’s scores are still mostly higher than the state average, but Lake said when comparing the district’s test score results with those of other districts similar to Mahwah, “our kids are not performing at the level they should be.”
Lake said the district is starting to take measures now to improve students’ understanding of “basic skills.” The board approved Wednesday night hiring tutors to provide additional assistance to Mahwah students. “The board should be commended for this. Seeing there was an issue, the board took the high road and hired the help we needed,” Lake said.
The interim head of the district is also recommending several additions to staffing throughout the district. Most of the positions she’s recommending “address pockets of need that have been growing in the district,” she said. The recommendations include an ESL, or English as a Second Language, teacher and two special education teachers.
Lake said she is also recommending the district hire three reading teachers/literacy coaches. “The coaches would teach the teachers how to be more effective, and would improve instruction to our kids,” she said. Coaches are “common” among Bergen County districts, she said.
Her hiring recommendations also include a first grade teacher at Lenape Meadows, a math/science teacher at the high school, a part-time business teacher at the high school, and a director of curriculum.
According to Lake, the district’s administrative staff has been trimmed too much, and the lack of an overall curriculum coordinator to oversee all that is taught in the district is a “problem. We have an overarching responsibility to keep our curriculum current.” According to Lake, committees at each school currently develop curricula independently of one another.
All of the staffing recommendations are based on student and program needs, Lake said.
“We can’t ignore this, because the younger kids that are not where they should be [in terms of test scores] will get older, go to high school and need to pass higher level exams. It is our job to work on weaknesses, and provide remediation.”
The staffing recommendations made Wednesday will be considered by the school board over the next month, and final decisions on whether or not the district will hire these or other positions will be made by the end of the month.
According to Business Administrator Ed Deptula, a $400K bump in state aid the district received this year will help pay for the additional positions. “But, we should be OK going forward, whether we continue to get that aid or not. We don’t want to start something and then not be able to sustain it two years down the road.”
Lake said Mahwah is "still a great district. It is not a bad thing to identify areas of need, and fix them. That's what we are trying to do."
See all of Mahwah’s 2010-2011 test results here.