By Dr. Elaine Kanas,
East Williston School District
As I am sitting here writing my first Friday newsletter, it seems like we’ve hardly been gone. The students and staff so quickly fall back into the rhythms of school. Schools have gotten off to a smooth start and we are looking forward to a terrific school year. As always, our school families’ and community members’ partnership is valued and important, so keep in touch through the many communication venues.
For those of you who had questions or concerns regarding your child’s transportation, thank you for your patience as the Transportation Department finishes one of their busiest weeks of the year.
Be assured that the district is evaluating and working to address any overcrowding and other concerns. The transportation office has informed me that it may take up to a week to make appropriate changes and accommodations.
Just a reminder, in appropriate circumstances, it may be helpful to email the Transportation Department (email@example.com) in lieu of a phone call as it may facilitate a quicker response.
At the Wednesday, Sept. 2 Board of Education work session, Dr. Danielle Gately, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Social Studies, along with North Side Principal Jim Bloomgarden and Willets Road Principal Steve Kimmel, presented information on the 2014-15 Grade 3-8 NYS Assessments in ELA and Math. Dr. Gately explained that the assessments are a snapshot in time, one of multiple measures that the District uses to give us information about our students’ learning to guide instruction.
Dr. Gately highlighted growth in our students’ scores from 2014 to 2015 as our district, like others, moves toward full alignment with the new standards. For example, our grade 4 math scores increased from 74 percent meeting proficiency or better in 2014 to 86 percent doing so in 2015. Our grade 8 ELA scores rose from 57 percent to 73 percent meeting proficiency or better. In another example, grade 5 math scores moved from 74 percent proficiency or better to 84 percent in 2015.
While our district continues to measure our progress against our own student and program growth, Dr. Gately and the principals also shared some comparison information regarding our district and others. For example, while the grade 7 Nassau County average for ELA was 41 percent proficiency or better, East Williston’s grade 7 had 70 percent meeting or exceeding the proficiency benchmark. Similarly, while grade 3 Nassau County Math was 54 percent meeting or exceeding proficiency, East Williston’s grade 3 was 80 percent. Grade 6 Nassau County Math was 54 percent with East Williston Math at 83 percent.
Dr. Gately also provided a review and update of the various initiatives the district has undertaken to support and challenge student learning in ELA and Math over the past few years. These include the full implementation of Fundations, a phonics, word work and spelling program K-3; the implementation of our K-12 reading benchmark program, Fountas and Pinnell, to have a consistent view of below, on, or above grade level reading progress; the expanded implementation of Wilson reading to include the high school for our most struggling students who benefit from this specialized reading approach; our adoption of LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention Program), now all the way through Grade 10, which is designed to move rapidly to close grade level reading gaps; and our work with Litlife to build reading and writing units of study in a workshop approach that involves students in authentic reading and writing, now being supported in grades 2-6. In math, Dr. Gately highlighted the continuing refinement and reorganization of the NYS Math modules in the elementary grades and the staff development work in grade 5 supported by our math staff developer consultant.
While the district received the 2014-15 ELA and Math scores, the parent reports are not distributed to school districts until a later date. Our buildings should be in receipt of the parent reports next week and they will be mailed out to parents very soon.
The state provides specific guidelines as to which students are required to receive AIS (Academic Intervention Support) based on student scale scores. A reminder that unlike the previous New York State Assessments, a score of 2 on these new assessments is no longer considered a score that automatically requires a student to receive academic intervention services. At this time, the state considers a Level 2, in many cases, as on track to meet current High School graduation requirements though the student is not yet performing fully proficient on Common Core Learning Standards. Beyond the state AIS required however, our individual schools continue to provide additional support for our students.
Many of the initiatives Dr. Gately outlined in her presentation that have provided a foundation in recent years for the students’ continued growth have been annual district goals. To view a listing of the 2015-16 district goals go to the district website at www.ewsdonline.org. Among the goals you will find the implementation of the second year of the Engineering program, Project Lead the Way, an AP Art History class offered by the Wheatley Social Studies Department, the piloting of a new social science elective in grade 7 to support the new social science research program at Wheatley, and an increased opportunity for differentiated reading instruction in grades K – 1, through enhanced guiding reading.