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Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

With the yearly rise in the number of Mount Sinai students who refuse to take standardized tests — in relation to a statewide movement against Common Core — district administrators have rolled out new ways to assess and strengthen learning skills. So far, three months into the school year, school leaders believe students are reaping the benefits.

“We’re doing things differently than we’ve ever done before,” said Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal during a Nov. 15 board of education meeting.

Brosdal said the district has implemented new literacy-based assessment programs to fill a great need to measure the academic abilities of elementary and middle school students. Since the 2012-13 school year, more and more students have opted out of the state’s English Language Arts and Math standardized exams, which are administered to evaluate those in grades three through eight, Brosdal said.

“I don’t necessarily agree with Common Core … but it’s important for kids to take the test because you get information out of them. What do we do to inform us about the kids who don’t take it? Or get more information on those that do?”

— Gordon Brosdal

“We went from a participation rate of 97 percent down to 40 percent,” he said, pointing to the uproar among members of the community over the adoption of Common Core as the main cause. Those against the tests criticize the pressures it places on students and teachers. “I don’t necessarily agree with Common Core … but it’s important for kids to take the test because you get information out of them. What do we do to inform us about the kids who don’t take it? Or get more information on those that do?”

Joined by district principals — Peter Pramataris of the middle school and Rob Catlin of the elementary school — Brosdal showcased the growth of students at both schools as a result of the newly implemented programs. Fountas & Pinnell, which started in September, gauges the reading and comprehension level of individual
students by having them read a book with their teacher three times a year. It’s a more relaxed form of testing that serves to measure a student’s progression throughout the year while also encouraging them to find the fun in reading.

When the student demonstrates overall reading ability and understanding of the text, he or she graduates to more challenging books. Books are organized into letter-based levels, “A” books being Dr. Suess and “Z” books being “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

In a demonstration of the district’s Columbia Writing Program, which was put in place three years ago as a
result of weakness in the subject across the elementary and middle schools, Pramataris compared a middle school student’s writing assignment from the second day of school to a writing assignment in October. As he pointed out, the second assignment was lengthier, and the student’s narrative skills were punchier.

Academic Intervention Services — help offered by the state at schools to help  students achieve the learning standards, monitors and helps those falling behind.

“We see weaknesses and we want to make them stronger and really work at it,” Brosdal said. “I believe our students have become better writers and readers and they will only get stronger. We’re going to see a lot of good things.”

Catlin, who was hired as principal of the elementary school over the summer, came to the district already well versed in the new programs and was determined to help initiate them.

“We’ve really developed a district wide action plan this year,” Catlin said. “The absence of meaningful assessment results required us to have meaningful in-house assessments. We can’t be in the dark about how a majority of our kids, who don’t take the state tests, are doing.”

The absence of meaningful assessment results required us to have meaningful in-house assessments. We can’t be in the dark about how a majority of our kids, who don’t take the state tests, are doing.”

— Rob Catlin

Catlin said in the first Fountas & Pinnell session performed by the district, teachers observed that 45 percent of students in lower elementary grades (first and second) performed at or above grade level. In the upper elementary grades (third and fourth) 22 percent of students performed at or above grade level.

“There are many reasons for this,” Catlin said. “As they say, data doesn’t answer questions, it just opens up questions and makes you think more about why things are happening.”

He explained that while students at these grade levels may have understood the books they were reading, they aren’t used to answering the high level of questions about it, and aren’t engaging in enough independent reading to practice these skills.

Now that teachers have that information about the student, they will be able to directly address their needs before the second session, which takes place in January. In the meantime, the elementary school librarian has started leveling books in the library and Scholastic money from the PTO, totaling $4,000, is being used to purchase more leveled books, Catlin said.

“Now we can use resources to really target their needs,” Catlin said. “And we’re able to see progress quickly, which is nice, and not have to wait until April when the state tests are taken.”

Deena Timo, executive director of educational services and another integral player in bringing the programs to the school, said of the state tests: “We’ve always viewed them as just a little snapshot in time and not the be all, end all to assess a child. It’s that, taken with a lot of things done in the classroom throughout the year that give you a good picture of a student.”

While Brosdal said he wishes more students took the Common Core tests in order to prepare for Regents exams once they reach the high school, he agreed.

“When you have to push the state stuff aside you ask, ‘Now what do we have to measure our kids?’” Brosdal said. “In the classroom, are we seeing growth? Are they engaged now where they weren’t earlier in the year? We are reacting to what we’re seeing, trying to put better things in place. I believe we’re heading in the right direction.”

Parents at a rally protest Common Core. File photo by Erika Karp

By Andrea Paldy

After six years of controversy surrounding the adoption and implementation of Common Core and standardized tests associated with it, the New York State Education Department released a new draft of learning standards Sept. 21.

The proposed changes come as the department attempts to respond to ongoing criticism, while maintaining its stated goal of rigor and higher standards for students. The result could mean significant change to both English language arts (ELA) and math learning standards and a greater emphasis on communication with parents, students and educators.

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services for Three Village said it’s too early to tell whether any of the changes will be fully implemented.

“So far it just seems to be cosmetic pieces,” Scanlon said at the meeting. “However, we need to delve a little further into it to see what potential impact it may have.”

He also said Three Village is providing feedback on the possible changes and will continue to work with the SED.

In a press release announcing the proposed adjustments, the state’s education department said its aim is to ensure that the new standards and their implementation are age-appropriate, particularly in primary grades. The new guidelines also propose additional teacher resources, guidance and professional development.

“These changes reflect what I have heard from parents, teachers and administrators over the past year in my travels across the state,” Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a prepared statement.

The draft committees, made up of more than 130 teachers, administrators, parents and college educators, volunteered from all regions of the state. They represent the “Big Five” districts — New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers — as well as urban, suburban and rural districts throughout the state, Elia said. These committees are suggesting that glossaries be used to explain the value and expectations of the education department’s learning standards to all stakeholders.

The ELA draft includes a preface and introduction describing the learning standard’s role within a curriculum. The committee, which worked with a child development expert, proposes more emphasis on the importance of play-based learning in the primary grades. The ELA draft revisions also seek to streamline literary and nonfiction texts across grades, while reorganizing writing standards.

According to the draft document, math standards will be revised to clarify expectations “without limiting instructional flexibility.” Math committees also recommended clarifications to “better understand the goals of the learning standards, Elia said. The revisions seek to “define the progression of skills,” so that there is continuity and a connection from grade to grade. Other changes include creating a balance between skill comprehension, application and performance.

The recommendations of committee members — described by Elia as “dedicated” — are built, in part, on those of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Common Core Task Force Report published in December, a public survey and feedback from discussions the commissioner had with parents and educators across the state.

The committees also worked with special education and English language teachers to address criticisms that the standards are not suitable for students in those areas.

Parents and others can comment on the draft standards on the department’s website — www.nysed.gov/aimhighny — through Nov. 4.

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Laura McNamara, math chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, discusses how classes will change once they are officially aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

As Three Village continues to align its curriculum with the Common Core, its secondary math chairs recently shared how the district’s courses will help students meet the new challenges.

Donald Ambrose, math chair at Ward Melville High School, pointed out that the objective of Common Core math is not simply to get the answer. “It’s examining the nuances” and having a deeper understanding of the numbers and their relationships, he said at last week’s board meeting.

“It’s definitely a lot more that’s going to be expected of our students,” he said.

Across the board, there is a greater focus on fewer topics, along with greater understanding and fluency, said Laura McNamara, math chair at P.J. Gelinas Junior High. McNamara laid out the curriculum in detail from seventh grade to Algebra II.

While students will learn to link math principles across grades, it will not be at the expense of broader understanding. In the shift toward greater alignment to the Common Core, students are being asked to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them,” Ambrose said.

During the presentation, Ambrose explained that additional expectations for Common Core math include the application of abstract and quantitative reasoning, building logical mathematical arguments and critiquing the logic of others. Ambrose added that students should be able to understand mathematical operations well enough to apply them to real-life situations and use appropriate tools to solve problems. The more rigorous approach calls for precision, an understanding of structure and higher-level reasoning, he said.

To achieve these goals, the district’s two junior high schools offer a variety of classes for students at varying levels. They range from lab classes for seventh and eighth graders who need additional support, to standard math, honors and honors theory classes, along with Regents Algebra I and Geometry.

R.C. Murphy math chair, Rocco Vetro spoke about the importance of vertical integration — that is, fluidity from elementary school to junior high. To achieve this goal the seventh grades are now piloting Go Math!, the curriculum recently adopted in the elementary schools. Vetro also discussed the district’s efforts to provide professional development to help teachers implement the more rigorous standards.

At Ward Melville, in addition to the three Regents courses — Algebra I and II and Geometry — the high school offers several Advanced Placement (AP) courses, including Calculus, statistics and computer science. Multivariable calculus, which qualifies for college credit from Stony Brook University, also is being offered. For students who complete multivariable calculus before their senior year, the math department plans to develop a course on differential equations for 2017, Ambrose said.

The district’s high school students have traditionally outperformed their counterparts in the state on all three math Regents exams, both in passing rates and, most particularly, in mastery rates. As the Regents and AP exams become aligned to the new standards, Three Village educators have set a goal of increasing the already high levels of student mastery. 

Moving forward, long term goals include adding more upper level courses, as well as continued vertical articulation between elementary, junior high and high school levels and further integration of classroom technology.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer updated the school board and audience members about the changes in Common Core Learning Standards at a meeting last week.

The Oct. 22 presentation covered upcoming state assessment changes and teacher and principal annual professional performance reviews (APPR) shifts.

According to Banzer’s presentation, as far as learning standards go, the English language arts and math common core standards have been adopted and implemented, the social studies standards have been adopted but not implemented and the science standards are only under review and have not yet been adopted or implemented.   

Several shifts are happening in the ELA and literacy, social studies and mathematic standards. The shifts in ELA and literacy are mostly focused on having students engage with the text more.

Students will have a “true balance of informational and literary texts,” according to the presentation and students will build knowledge about the world “through text rather than the teacher.”

The math changes include striking a balance between practicing and understanding math skills in the classroom.

“Both are occurring with intensity,” according to the presentation. There is also an emphasis on students “deeply understanding” math concepts. “They learn more than the trick to get the answer right. They learn the math.”

New social studies standards mirror those in ELA and literacy.

These include using informational text to support an argument to help students “develop the skills necessary for 21st century college, career and citizenship standards.”

In June 2018, a new global history and geography exam will be administered based on the new framework, and in June 2019 a new US history and government exam will follow.

For science standards, a steering committee was formed in August 2014 and a public survey is currently being developed to gather feedback on a new set of science learning standards for grades pre-kindergarten to 12. Adoption of a five-year strategic plan is anticipated in 2016.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a Common Core task force amid growing boycotts of standardized tests.

According to the governor’s website, the task force is a diverse and highly qualified group of education officials, teachers, parents and state representatives from across New York. The group will complete a review and deliver its final recommendations by the end of this year.

There are also changes to assessments, including a greater input from teachers in the test development process.

In grades three through eight, ELA tests will have fewer questions in 2015-2016. Computer based testing will also be field-tested.

Changes to APPR are also on the way.

A new education law requires districts to negotiate new annual professional performance review criteria by Nov. 15, unless the district applies for and receives a hardship waiver, which would extend its deadline.

Banzer said that Northport-East Northport has applied for and received its hardship waiver just last week. The waiver is for four months and a district can apply again for another extension, according to the presentation.

“Knowing from May to November, for many districts, to negotiate would be impossible or impractical to try,” Banzer said. “We bought ourselves some much needed time with this process.”

A full-day kindergarten class at Mount Sinai Elementary school has rug time during class. Photo by Giselle Barkley

With the Mount Sinai Elementary School’s new full-day kindergarten program, most students don’t want to miss school, even if they’re sick.

Since classes began six weeks ago, the school district’s kindergarten classes have learned to read, construct simple sentences, understand patterns and count when doing math. Six weeks ago, the majority of these students didn’t even know how to spell or identify “the” or “and” in a sentence.

Faculty and staff members, like Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and teacher Debra Santoro, who started teaching 10 years ago, said they thought the students would take longer to grasp the concepts the school teaches in the full-day program, but the shift from half-day to full-day Kindergarten has been successful, according to the school’s employees.

With the help of teachers like Santoro and the school’s new writing program, “Think, Draw, Write,” the kids aren’t only gaining confidence in their writing abilities, but are also using their creativity and applying what they learn to events in their life. During class, the kids have rug time, which is when the teacher devotes a certain amount of time teaching a lesson related to English language arts or math, among other subjects, at the front of the class. Students can then return to their desks and expand upon what they learned on the rug. Now, lessons are hands-on, allowing the kids to have a more positive outlook on learning.

“I think, in the past, we didn’t have it structured with mini lesson that’s presented in a few minutes to really grab their attention [and] convince [students] that they’re capable, and to build confidence,” Santoro said.

With the half-day kindergarten program, teachers only had 90 to 100 minutes of instruction time, as opposed to the scheduled 120 — walking from the bus to the classroom and taking off warmer clothing during the winter months took time out of the lesson. The new program gives students and teachers more time to learn and teach a lesson, Brosdal said.

“You don’t want to do it just because [the] parents both work and might need child care,” Brosdal said. “The reality is … when you look at the demands of the curriculum of ELA and math, you have to have time to learn it. When you’re rushing, it’s easy for some [children] to get left behind.”

The program also allows kids to get out of the classroom for special classes, like music, art and physical education, and learn the layout of the school and how to stay attentive despite the additional hours.

Initially, first grade teachers at the school spent the first four to six weeks teaching the kids how to get around the building as well as how to sit for a longer period of time — first grade used to be the first time former kindergarten students stayed in school for a full day.

According to Santoro, the key to preventing these students from fading as the day progresses is to keep them engaged.

Brosdal added that school officials intend to follow the progress of this group of kindergartners, especially when they enter third grade and complete their assessments for Common Core. Thus far, faculty, staff and students alike are excited about the program and the kids’ progress. Brosdal admitted he thought the change from half-day to full-day would be more difficult, but said that teachers sacrificing parts of their summer to prepare for the program by scheduling meetings with superintendents from school districts with full-day kindergarten, like Miller Place, was helpful.

“[With] new programs, sometimes you find that ‘oh you should have planned that or did that,’” Brosdal said. “[School] opened like we had [full-day kindergarten] for years.”

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Enrollment in the Three Village school district has hit a historic low.

That’s some of the news Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivered at the district’s second school board meeting in the new school year. His numerical snapshot of the district also included state assessment and Regents scores, as well as statistics for the Class of 2015.

Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy
Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, delivers a presentation. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Enrollment, Scanlon said, has been declining steadily by about 200 students each year. Current enrollment is 6,472 compared to 6,723 last school year. With 348 students, this year’s kindergarten is little more than half the size of last year’s graduating class, he said.

Scanlon said, though, that the district is taking advantage of declining enrollment to decrease class sizes in elementary grades and reduce study halls in the secondary schools. In an interview following the meeting, the assistant superintendent added that Three Village has been able to appoint a STEM teacher at each of the elementary schools.

Even as student numbers go down, the poverty rate has climbed a percentage point to 7 percent. Scanlon’s report also indicated that district spending per student has increased from $16,137 to $17,554.

On a more controversial matter, Scanlon reported that the refusal rate in this year’s state tests for third- through eighth-grade students was 58 percent for English language arts and 57 percent for math.

Of those who opted out of ELA this year, 48 percent had passed it in 2014. Those who opted out of math this year and took it in 2014 had a 59 percent pass rate last year.

Though the Three Village 2015 ELA results reflect only 42 percent of students in the testing grades, the pass rate jumped in all grades, increasing between 4.15 and 12.7 percentage points, a comparison of the two years shows. The highest pass rate was 61.9 percent in eighth grade.

The passing rate on the math exams, which reflected 43 percent of students in the grades tested, also saw gains. Fourth grade had the largest increase — 11.16 percentage points — and a 77.2 percent pass rate.

Scanlon said that there was a 3.93 percentage point drop in the eighth-grade math results because the majority of eighth-graders took the Algebra Regents exams instead of the eighth-grade state test.

The 2015 assessment and Regents report showed that all scores in both disciplines were well above the New York state, Long Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County averages. New York state averages for all students were 31.3 percent for ELA and 38.1 percent for math.

When compared to neighboring districts — Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Hauppauge, Northport and Smithtown — Three Village’s ELA scores surpassed other districts in all grades except seventh. Seventh-grade scores were only 0.1 percentage point lower than the second highest-scoring district. Three Village’s math scores were either first or second in all grades, except for eighth.

Algebra students took both the old integrated algebra and the Common Core-aligned Algebra I exams. Scanlon said the higher of the two scores will be used on transcripts. The report showed that except for geometry, there was a dip in the math Regents scores. Pass rates remained high — in the 90s — for science, history and social studies Regents.

In other good news, the class of 2015 maintained the district’s 99 percent graduation rate and had a 95 percent college acceptance rate. This year also saw the highest number of Advanced Placement scholars ever, Scanlon said. The 293 students received the honor based on the number of AP exams they took and their average score, he explained. This number includes current students, as well as those who graduated last June.

In other news, the board voted on two new administrative appointments: Anthony Pollera, who has been a music teacher with the district since 2002, was named coordinating chairperson of music; and Marnie Kula, Ward Melville science chair since 2008, added InSTAR program coordinator to her responsibilities following the retirement of George Baldo.

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Professor Allen Tannenbaum. Photo from Stony Brook University

It’s a dangerous enemy that often turns deadly. Worse than its potentially lethal nature, however, cancer has an ability to work around any roadblocks scientists and doctors put in its path, rendering some solutions that bring hope ineffective.

Researchers around the world are eagerly searching for ways to stay one, two or three moves ahead of cancer, anticipating how the many forms of this disease take medicine’s best shot and then go back to the business of jeopardizing human health.

Allen Tannenbaum, a professor of computer science and applied mathematics and statistics at Stony Brook University, has added a field called graph theory to some of the tools he knows well from his work in medical imaging and computer vision.

A normal, healthy cell is like a factory, with genes sending signals through proteins, enzymes and catalysts, moving reactions forward or stopping them, and the genetic machinery indicating when and how hard the parts should work.

Cancer, however, is like a hostile takeover of that factory, producing the factory equivalent of M16s that damage the cell and the individual instead of baby toys, Tannebaum suggested.

By analyzing how proteins or transcription networks interact, Tannenbaum and his colleagues can develop a model for the so-called curvature of interactions.

Looking at the interactions among parts of the genetic factory, Tannenbaum can determine and quantify the parts of the cell that are following cancer commands, rather than doing their original task.

Curvature isn’t so much a bending of a physical space as it is a change in the way the different proteins or transcription factors function in the discrete networks Tannenbaum uses in cancer and biology.

“The parts are not doing their job the same way,” Tannenbaum said. “We can look and see graphically how different things compare.” He and his collaborators recently published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

Using mathematical formulas to define a range of interactions, Tannenbaum can determine how quickly a cancer or normal cell can return to its original state after a disturbance. This ability is called its robustness.

The study “brings to light a new way to understand and quantify the ability of cancer cells to adapt and develop resistance,” explained Tryphon T. Georgiou, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota, who has known Tannenbaum for over 30 years and collaborated on this study. “It also provides ways to identify potential targets for
drug development.”

Tannenbaum studied cells from six different tumor types and supplemented the study with networks that contain about 500 cancer-related genes from the Cosmic Cancer Gene Census.

In treatments for cancers, including sarcomas, researchers and doctors sometimes try to pull the plug on cancer’s energy network. This method can slow cancer down, but cancer often resumes its harmful operations.

Using models of cancer on a computer, Tannenbaum and the five graduate students and four postdoctoral fellows can run virtual experiments. He can hand off his results to biologists, who can then run tests. Once those scientists collect data, they can offer information back to Tannenbaum.

“This is a team effort,” said Tannenbaum, who works with scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Georgiou described Tannenbaum as a “brilliant scholar” and a “mathematician with unparalleled creativity,” who has been a “pioneer in many fields,” including computer vision. Indeed, a computer vision program could assist nurses in the intensive care unit on different shifts assess the level of pain from someone who might not otherwise be able to communicate it.

Georgiou called Tannenbaum’s work on cancer a “mission” and said Tannenbaum is “absolutely determined to use his remarkable skills as a mathematician and as a scientist” to defeat it.

Tannenbaum, who recently took his grandchild to a Mets win at CitiField, said coming to Stony Brook in 2013 was a homecoming, bringing him closer to his native Queens. He cited two famous graduates from Far Rockaway High School: the physicist Richard Feynman, who helped develop the atomic bomb, and Bernie Madoff.

He and his wife Rina, who is a professor in materials science and engineering at Stony Brook, live in Long Island City.

Tannenbaum hopes to continue to build on his work applying math to solving cancer.

“There’s a lot of mathematical play left and then testing the predictions in a biological/medical setting,” he said.

Cliff Swezey joins Huntington school district, along with others

Huntington schools will see plenty of new faces this September, and not all of them will belong to students.

The school board approved a number of teaching appointments on Monday as well as the hiring of Cliff Swezey, the district’s new chairman of mathematics and sciences for grades 7 through 12. Swezey is the latest addition to fleet of new administrators at the district, particularly the high school level — joining Huntington High School Principal Brenden Cusack and two new assistant principals Joseph DeTroia and Gamal Smith.

School district officials reviewed 66 applications, pre-screened 20 candidates and conducted 12 personal and extensive interviews prior to recommending Swezey, according to a statement from the school.

Cliff Swezey was appointed as the new math and sciences chairman of grades 7 through 12 at a school board meeting on Monday. Photo by Jim Hoops
Cliff Swezey was appointed as the new math and sciences chairman of grades 7 through 12 at a school board meeting on Monday. Photo by Jim Hoops

Swezey, who hails from the Uniondale school district and served there as director of math and computer science for grades K to 12 for the last two years, said he’s excited to join Huntington. He said he developed a four-year computer science sequence for high school students in Uniondale, and would be excited to tackle a similar initiative in Huntington – something school board member Bill Dwyer has said he’d like done at the district.

Swezey replaces the district’s former chairman Blaine Weisman. He said he is an advocate of Singapore math learning techniques — the country boasts high math success rates — and the new chairman said the Common Core Learning Standards math curriculum utilizes those learning techniques. He also said one of his responsibilities at Huntington would be to help parents understand Common Core math.

“The Common Core is really an adaptation, an adoption, of Singapore mathematics,” he said. “So I’m passionate about that because it’s about thinking. It’s not about rote memorization. It’s not about learning procedures and rules in math, which turns kids off. It’s about critical thinking. It’s about problem solving. It’s about alternative strategies and getting kids to build numeracy.”

Swezey earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at SUNY New Paltz in 1984 and a master’s degree in education in mathematics at St. John’s University in 1995. He earned a doctor of education in educational leadership at St. John’s in 2004.

Superintendent Jim Polansky said the district’s still looking to fill a handful of positions. Many of the new hires follow retirements from earlier this year. Polansky said he’s excited about the new team at the high school.

“I have a principal in place that has vision that connects with students like no other and I think we have a team of individuals that are ready to build on momentum that is building at the high school in a positive way for a long time.”

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Port Jefferson students had a 94 percent passing rate on the Common Core algebra Regents this year. Stock photo

Several dozen students will get better grades in algebra after Port Jefferson school officials agreed not to count their final exam scores.

For the 92 students who took algebra this past school year — some of them eighth-graders and some ninth-graders — and sat for the Common Core-aligned Algebra I Regents exam, those test results originally counted for 20 percent of their course grades, according to high school Principal Christine Austen. But the large majority of the kids saw their course grades, and thus their overall GPAs, drop after those test scores were considered.

It was just the second year that the new Algebra I Regents was administered, and Superintendent Ken Bossert said at the school board meeting Monday night the test was not aligned with the Common Core algebra materials and resources the state provided to schools. He said his teachers called the test “unfair,” “brutal” and “rigorous.”

Last year, when the new algebra Regents was administered for the first time, students were also permitted to take the old Integrated Algebra Regents, and use the higher of their two scores on their transcripts. But Bossert said that safety net was not in place this year.

There has been some controversy in Long Island schools over whether districts were allowed to administer the Integrated Algebra test again this year, and let students use the higher of their two scores — some did and some did not. Port Jefferson was one of the districts that did not, and Bossert cited differing interpretations of a state memo to explain the discrepancy.

The memo from the New York State Education Department, dated December 2014, says if students began algebra instruction before September 2014, school districts could choose to administer both tests to those specific kids. Eighth-graders who took the Algebra I Regents this June, for example, would have had to begin algebra instruction in seventh grade in order to qualify.

The memo states the June 2015 exam period was the last time the Integrated Algebra Regents would be administered, ruling out that backup exam for future algebra students.

While Bossert spoke against students in other school districts receiving what he called “an unfair advantage” on their Regents scores, he said Port Jefferson could take some action at least on the local level — recalculating algebra course grades so the Regents exam results did not negatively impact students.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do,” the superintendent said.

Most of the difference in Regents scores between Common Core algebra and Integrated Algebra was in the number of students testing at mastery levels, scoring at least 85 percent.

According to a presentation at Monday’s meeting by Maureen Hull, Port Jefferson’s executive director for curriculum and instruction, 94 percent of Port Jefferson’s test-takers passed the Common Core algebra Regents this year, but only 19 percent scored at the mastery level. In 2014, the first year the new test was administered, those numbers were 90 percent passing and 16 percent mastery — significantly higher than the numbers statewide. But the kids did better on the Integrated Algebra exam that year, with a 95 percent passing rate and a 47 percent mastery rate.

Bossert called the struggle with mastery levels — while other school districts have students who are failing and cannot graduate — “a good problem to have.” But in light of exam difficulty and the discrepancy in how tests were administered, he suggested the district should not count the 2014-15 algebra students’ Regents scores toward their final grades as a “one-time solution,” and in the future reevaluate how final exams should factor into student grades. The board of education unanimously supported the idea.

Austen explained in an interview after the meeting that for the 80 students whose algebra grades dropped due to their Regents scores, school officials would remove the scores from their course grades and recalculate both their final grades and their GPAs.

There were also five students whose saw their grades boosted by their Regents scores and seven who saw no change, Austen said, and those students’ grades will not be touched.

A pumped-up crowd in the Centereach High School gymnasium cheered, clapped and clamored to see which of the district’s elementary schools would come out victorious at Monday night’s STEM Celebration.

The evening marked the district’s first celebration of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and administrators flooded the school to see students use their skills to build paper helicopters, newspaper tables and cup towers, and compete against each other to build a spaghetti tower. In addition, students from the district’s eight elementary schools presented their LEGO engineering creations to judges.

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