Schools will use tracking and more nonfiction reading to improve achievement

by Grace

Everything old is new again.

New York released English and math state test scores for grades 3-8 yesterday.  Since the state toughened standards, overall pass rates have dropped.  As a way to try to improve sores, some schools are trying different strategies, including tracking students by skill level and using more nonfiction reading material.  I wish our local schools would do this.

Jessica O’Donovan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in White Plains, said despite the relatively low pass rates — largely due to tougher standards, she said — the district is confident its students will be prepared for Regents exams and college.

The district is implementing various changes in teaching and intervention strategies, O’Donovan said.

A program called Intervention Block regroups elementary students based on skill level for more tailored instruction. At the middle school level, teachers regularly meet to craft common assessments and analyze data….

Tougher standards took a hit on scores in the Valhalla school district. About three-quarters of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded standards in English and math, but pass rates fell in both subjects at nearly every grade level….

Myers said the dip in her district’s scores, and those of districts statewide, was due to the last test having more difficult items on it than the exam in 2010, which itself was toughened. She also said certain items were used on the tests for the first time.

Still, Myers said, the district is working to improve performance.

Instructors are using more nonfiction books and analytical questions to improve higher-level comprehension. In math, she said the district would analyze the results to see if a specific type of problem accounted for the decline in scores.

“We have to be focused on a good solid curriculum and targeted intervention,” Myers said.

Nonfiction books provide background knowledge that improves reading comprehension and help prepare students for the type of reading they will need to do in college.

66 percent of Lower Hudson Valley students met testing standards in 2010-11 –

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