Assistant superintendent addresses district’s use of state test results after declines


Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Alice Bowman discussed data from the state standardized tests for third through eighth graders and the high school Regents exams at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

“I just want to highlight that we are discussing the relationship here between our values and the measurements that we use,” said Bowman. “While we do want to talk about these assessments, we want to also bring into the discussion the idea that assessments are one measure of what we value, but what we value as a district really goes far beyond what can be measured.” 

It is the goal of the district to assess Pelham students’ mid-year progress in January by using monitoring tests. “That way, we’ll be able to see what progress some of our students have been making in terms of meeting their annual goals, and so we’ll have more information then,” said Bowman. 

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ said, “The most important information about what is actionable for individual children is in hand, and has already been something we have been analyzing and acting upon,” 

Bowman went into depth on the impact of Covid-19 and how it affected students’ test-taking abilities. “While normally we might look at year-to-year change, we can’t in the current situation because in the 2019-2020 school year there was no administration of any state assessments statewide,” Bowman said. The data from the two years after remains skewed because of the option to sit out of standardized tests, making the analysis of data like “comparing apples to oranges,” Bowman said. This leaves the 2018-2019 school year as the last the district can make comparisons from.

The pandemic also had an impact on time spent on each lesson and curriculum as a whole for the past three school years. Prior to the pandemic, Pelham students in grades three through eight received English language arts instruction for 45 minutes daily. In math, there were 60 minutes. When the pandemic hit, ELA dropped to 30 minutes for both reading and writing and 30 minutes for math. 

Board member Will Treves asked Bowman about a parent’s next steps if they believe their child is struggling with state tests and who they should contact.

Bowman said the first person a parent should speak with is their child’s teacher. “They really do have the best insight as to what is going on,” she said. 

Board Vice President Ian Rowe wanted clarification on the elementary school scoring statistics, asking if scores were consistent across the four schools or if there were abnormalities between school or grade level.

“While I cannot say that there is consistency between grades amongst the buildings, I can tell you that I don’t see anything that indicates that there is a specific concern that comes out of one building or one grade in one building,” Bowman said.  

In the Regents exams administered to high schoolers last school year, seven out of the eight tests saw a drop in proficiency rates.

From 2019 to 2022, students meeting the state standard on the chemistry Regents declined 21 percentage points to 67% from 88%.

However, Bowman made a point of noting the mastery rate for the chemistry exam. “The mastery rate was 27.65%, and is now at 28.57%, so essentially for our mastery rate we maintained the same level, which I think is important to highlight,” she said.

“Yes, there is a fall out from the interrupted instruction that has happened, but we are very purposefully making sure that we make those adjustments so that we get the kids where they need to be,” said Bowman.

The next board of education meeting will be held on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in the middle school library.