The Guilderland Board of Education held its first meeting of the new school year on Tuesday, Sept. 16, and discussed the high school dropout rate, as well as the difficulties special education students face.
The board saw a presentation on the 2006-2007 school year, and statistics related to student proficiency.
Demian Singleton, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the district has concerns that special education students in grades three through five with reading disabilities cannot have questions read to them on the English Language Arts proficiency exam.
For the early readers, that can be a very challenging task, he said.
State law, governed by No Child Left Behind, does not permit the students to have the questions read to them, he said.
Singleton said the 2006-2007 class attained 85 percent proficiency at grade three; 80 percent in grade four and 80 percent in grade five; and the district is looking for ways to raise those numbers with respect to the special education students.
Board of Education member Hy Dubowski pointed out that important progress has been made in ELA scores after fifth grade.
`The most striking gain, clearly, is the eighth grade ELA,` Dubowski said.
As the students go on to high school, more progress is made. Singleton said 92 percent of high school students go on to pass the English Regents exam.
Richard Weiss, president of the Board of Education asked Singleton about how to raise the scores of the students who are already considered proficient.
Singleton acknowledged that it is important not to overlook those students when evaluating the district’s report card.
`We don’t want to do a disservice to those kids who are trying to reach the highest level,` he said.
Singleton said that efforts to raise student’s scores at all levels are being considered.
The board is planning on addressing some other areas of concern, specifically lowering the dropout rate of high school students.
`It’s something we’re certainly keeping an eye on,` Singleton said. `We’re really stepping back and trying to find early warnings.`
He said the key is to identify indicators common to high school dropouts that can be targeted.
`We’re also aware of the reality that some students are looking for other options,` he said referring to some students who are prepared to enter the workforce while still in high school.
Singleton said the district is considering bringing an in-house General Education Diploma program to the high school to accommodate those students.
Students do have an opportunity to complete a GED through BOCES, but Singleton said that program has had `mixed reviews` because students are required to travel outside of the district.
Singleton also highlighted excellent scores for the math Regents and grade three through eight proficiency exams, and data coordinator Mary Helen Collen cited foreign language proficiency at 97 to 100 percent.