Setting the Record Straight: Facts About Focus Schools
Sunday, November 3, 2013 • 11:12am
Misinformation about the status of the South Orange-Maplewood School District is being spread by one of the candidates in an irresponsible manner hoping to cause undue alarm among parents and voters.
For the record, SOMSD is not a "Focus District", we are not on probation and we are definitely not at risk of being taken over by the State Department of Education. We do have three schools that were designated as "Focus Schools" in the fall of 2011 - Clinton Elementary School, Maplewood Middle School, and South Orange Middle School.
These three schools were identified as "Focus Schools" because two subgroups ("economically disadvantaged" and "special services" students) have too many students scoring below the "Proficient" level on state standardized tests. Using a weighted average of test scores from 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11, the Department of Education calculated a gap of 43.5 percentage points or more between these subgroups and the highest performing subgroup in these schools ("white" students).
The Board has been aware of -- and has taken steps to address -- these gaps prior to the State's "Focus School" designations, through system-wide improvements to curriculum and the delivery of instruction. These efforts have resulted in more students scoring proficient or better across the District.
The District recently received an indication from the Regional Achievement Center of the NJ Department of Education that South Orange Middle School will be removed from the focus school list. Given the rise in test scores, we are optimistic that Clinton Elementary School and Maplewood Middle School will also be removed in the next year or two. This does not mean our work will be done -- we will not rest until all students are able to achieve proficiency or better on these tests, and achieve at a high level in all their coursework. We believe -- based on the data -- that the District's efforts over the last several years are bearing fruit. We are running for school board because we believe it is important that we stay on plan and keep the District moving forward.
The charts below show the positive trend in test scores in Language Arts and Math in the three focus schools over the last 5 years. The gains in language arts are significant. The gains in math are quite striking: for the subgroups in question, there have been Increases of 20, 12 and 17 percentage points in the number of those students scoring proficient or better on standardized math tests.
View 2012-2013 Student Performance Update, Focus Schools section begins on p. 19.
Please vote for the Daugherty, Giles & Lawson-Muhammad team on Tuesday, November 5th. We have the right balance of leadership, experience, fresh ideas, and THE FACTS to keep our district moving in the right direction.