Montgomery, NY – Oct. 29, 2015 – The Valley Central School District community gathered in the Middle School cafeteria on Monday, Oct. 26 for the District’s Annual Achievement Fair.
The event highlights student achievement and progress at each school in the district. Presenters, including administrators and directors, reviewed the respective challenges and celebrations of the preceding school year and set both instructional and non-instructional goals for the upcoming school year.
Each school in the District implemented numerous strategies last year in order to help improve student performance. Measures included individualized instruction on a student by student basis and the utilization of child-friendly writing rubrics in order to improve proficiency. Due in part to some of these strategies, Districtwide, the percentage of students proficient in ELA and Mathematics increased from the 2013-14 school year.
In addition to the improvements on the State assessments, each administrator presented metrics on achievement at the individual school level. These student achievement statistics were based upon a variety of factors above and beyond New York State (NYS) test scores including teacher assessments, graduation rates, the success of students with disabilities and statistics on disciplinary actions.
“We know that test scores are only one measure of student performance on one day,” said Sheila Lease-Murphy, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Pupil Services.
Across the district, the “opt-out” movement was identified as a universal challenge.
“[Because of large numbers of students not participating in standardized tests,] the results of tests are not sufficient to inform us about student ability, placement and progress,” said Ned Hayes, Principal of Valley Central Middle School (VCMS). “We need an alternate method.”
At VCMS, that alternate method was the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) software, a computerized assessment program. With the implementation of the NWEA tests, goals were set for each student and the program assessed student progress and identified any areas of needed improvement on a student by student basis. Next year, all New York State testing will be conducted online, however, the District voluntarily implemented online testing this past school year in order to help prepare the students for next year’s mandate.
Jayme Ginda-Baxter, principal of Valley Central High School discussed the challenges of ensuring students meet graduation requirements as New York State frequently changes requirements. Utilizing strategies such as an increase in data analyzation on Common Core units and modules, and a focus on college and career readiness, Valley Central High School’s graduation rate increased from 87% to 89% and its 4 year college rate increased from 43% to 49%.
In addition to academic goals, administrators from each school also set non-academic goals including anti-bullying initiatives, character development, educating students of the dangers of texting and driving and increasing community involvement at school events.
Interim Superintendent John Xanthis credited the success of the District’s initiatives to the passion and drive of the faculty and staff.
“A lot of what’s currently going on in education can cause frustration, but I want you to know that you have true leaders in these teachers and administrators,” said Xanthis. “There are tremendous opportunities here for our students and I am grateful for the administrators and directors.”