By Tamara Best
Improving performance on standardized tests, overcrowded classrooms and budget cuts were among key topics at the Community Education Council 24 meeting Tuesday.
“Seniors, public safety and education—those are three things you don't cut,” said Nick Comaianni, president of council. “Fill my pothole next year, I'll drive around it. But don't cut education,” he said.
Comaianni and other parents said they were thankful that MTA decided not to cut the student MetroCard program, which provides free or reduced fare cards to students.
A representative from state Senator Joe Addabbo’s office said legislators are diligently working to meet the June 28 deadline to complete the budget and are hoping to avoid cuts to the education system.
***Standardized Test Performance***
Madelene Chan, community superintendent for District 24, offered parents a preliminary assessment of state standardized test scores for spring 2009. The official scores for spring 2010 are not expected to be available until July, she said.
Enrollment across the district, which covers Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village, Corona, Woodside and parts of Long Island City and Sunnyside, hit 49,525 students this year, an increase of 1,000 from last year. Chan reported that the district is also in good standing, meeting testing benchmarks for the 2009-10 school year.
Preliminary results of spring 2009 show that students in third through fifth grade, performed well in areas of math and science. Ninety one percent of students performed at or above the state standard in math, followed by students with disabilities at 72 percent and 80 percent for English language learners.
In the science assessment for fourth grade, 84 percent of all students performed or at above the standard, followed by 63 percent of those with disabilities and 64 percent of English language learners.
The trend in math continued with six to eighth graders, in all three categories, scoring above 50 percent. However, Chan said there is still much work to be done to improve overall performance.
"Some subgroups didn't meet all the target goals," she said, adding that improving reading is a top priority.
Only 41 percent of students with disabilities performed at or above the state on the English Language Arts test, with 47 percent of English language learners met the target for grades three through five.
In grades six through eight, the results were worse with only 31 percent of students with disabilities performing at or above state standard, followed by 24 percent for English language learners.
Chan said the overall performance of special populations in District 24 is a primary area and focus for improvement in the coming year.
***Overcrowding, Charter Schools and Gifted Education***
“Our biggest enemy is that we can’t find space to build a school fast enough,” said Comaianni of the overcrowding, adding that parents should have a say in where schools are built based on need.
The board is waiting to receive updates on a new school expected to be built at Metropolitan Avenue and Tonsor Street at the site of a former Rite Aid.
The lack of seats for students in need of gifted education was also a hot issue among parents at Tuesday’s meeting. Some expressed frustration that their children passed the test only to be told that there were no seats available at their respective schools.
“No one is going to set the bar higher for education higher than parents,” said one audience member.
Comaianni said in addition to increasing the performance index, more attention needs to be given to opening seats in the gifted program.
“Special needs is not just for kids with special needs but for students who excel,” he said. Comaianni also hailed the progress being made with reform to state charter schools. “It’s no longer we take the crème de la crème,’ he said.
In May, the state legislature passed legislation that widened the statewide cap for charter school enrollment from 200 to 460 and limits the role of those who profit from the schools operation, according to the United Federation of Teachers. Twenty three schools can be opened in September 2011.
The bill now requires charter schools to accept students with disabilities, English language learners, bars for-profit organizations from operating schools and give parents a voice in co-location issues.
However, Comaianni said he still has concerns over the lottery system used for enrollment and accountability. Additionally he said that when “public funds are used for a private school, some oversight is needed,” adding that school administrations should have to answer to the community at local education council meetings.