The Board of Education’s meeting on October 11 included two important presentations on student performance on state tests and the results of the 2021-22 external financial audit. Please read below for summaries of each presentation.
Student Performance Report
Dr. Alice Bowman, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, shared the results of last spring’s Gr. 3-8 Math and ELA testing as well as the PMHS Regents results. Dr. Bowman explained that state test results are one component of how the District measures student growth and that the District utilizes a variety of formative assessments, which are connected to students’ daily learning and assess understanding and mastery of skills, as well as summative assessments, such as state assessments and year-end assessments that are benchmarked to standards. All of this data is used to determine how students are progressing throughout the year and what adjustments or interventions are necessary to fill in identified gaps or areas of weakness.
Gr. 3-8 ELA Assessments
Overall, the percentage of Pelham students achieving proficiency (defined as scoring a level 3 or 4) on the ELA assessment remained level across all grade levels when compared to the 2018-19 school year - considered the most recent comparable year due to the assessments being canceled in 2020 and low participation statewide in 2021. Additionally, the percentage of students scoring at level 4 either increased or remained stable.
Dr. Bowman shared that the percentage of Pelham students who achieved proficiency in ELA was significantly higher when compared to the region, which includes scores from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam.
Gr. 3-8 Math Assessments
Pelham students continued to score above their regional peers on the math assessment in grades 3-7. While Pelham students' proficiency in math remained level in grade three, there were declines in grades 4-8. There were also declines in students scoring level 4 across all grade levels.
Dr. Bowman explained that when reviewing math scores in grade 8, it is important to note that more than half of Pelham’s 8th graders are accelerated into Regents Algebra and do not take the state math assessment, but instead take the Algebra Regents Exam.
Pandemic Effect on State Assessment Results
Dr. Bowman explained that like school districts across the country, the difficult choices that were necessitated by the pandemic had a greater impact on math than other subjects. Specific factors include:
Shorter instructional blocks to reduce negative impacts of screen time during virtual/hybrid learning
A strategic decision to reduce the number of units of instruction taught during the pandemic in order to maintain depth of instruction in the units that were presented, which forecasted results on 2021-2022 assessments.
Difficulties with traditional use of hands on learning experiences, such as manipulatives
Recovery from learning loss caused by the pandemic impacts mathematics in a fundamentally different way than it impacts other disciplines because math instruction is cumulative. As such, foundational skills are critical in the development of mathematical understanding.
Students' first experiences with state assessments and Regents exams was delayed as a result of cancellations, and as a result many students experienced their first state assessment and/or Regents exams in 2022.
Addressing and Improving Student Growth
Recognizing that there was a need for additional support in math to account for learning loss due to the pandemic, the District enacted a number of steps to improve student performance prior to the start of the school year. These include:
Adding two elementary intervention teachers and one middle school math intervention teacher for this school year to increase the number of students who are accessing interventions
Strategically reintegrating units and concepts that were purposefully removed during prior years’ instruction
Assessing student gaps in skills and addressing areas of weakness along the way to ensure students are poised for short and long-term learning growth
Providing focused professional development in Math, ELA, Science and other content areas
Implementing Branching Minds as a tool to inform the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support process, capture a variety of student data, and provide additional resources/strategies as-needed
Increasing utilization of instructional technology to fill in gaps and/or accelerate students, as is necessary.
Utilizing Professional Learning Community time on early release days to focus on areas of student need
Engaging in instructional rounds so that teachers can learn from each other and implement best practices in the classroom
To further help students recover, Dr. Bowman recommended that the District hire an additional elementary intervention teacher for this school year to provide even more support for students. This contingency position was included in the budget for this school year and will be filled shortly.
The District will continue to monitor students’ growth throughout the year, as it has done in the past, and is considering all options to improve student proficiency. Parents/guardians who have specific concerns about their child’s progress should contact their student’s teacher.
Dr. Bowman also reviewed the results of last spring’s Regents Exams, which had previously been discussed at the Board’s September 7 meeting. Similar to the Gr. 3-8 assessments, Pelham students continued to perform well on the English and Global History Regents while scores declined in math and science. She noted that the same challenges that the pandemic presented for the younger students were also true at the high school level.
The curriculum team has been reviewing the scores since the summer, as is done each year, to determine where students performed well and where they struggled and are working to fill gaps where they exist.
Auditors from PKF O’Connor Davies presented the results of the external audit for the 2021-22 school year showing a clean audit of the District’s financial statements.
Each year, the independent audit firm examines the District’s budget, expenditures, revenues, reserves and capital expenses and reviews accounting policies and procedures, internal controls and compliance with laws, regulations, and provisions of contracts and agreements as well as the District’s revenues and expenditures. Overall, the auditors reported the District to be in good financial health with no major findings or concerns.
The District reported a budget surplus of $538,000 owing to higher than expected non property tax revenues and lower than expected expenditures.
The full audit report, including the Audited Financial Statements, Management Letter, Extraclassroom Activity Fund Report and Corrective Action Plan are available on the District website.