Jul 26, 2014
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BHS Again Fails to Meet 'No Child' Benchmark

Deficiencies in Special Education Highlighted in State 'Report Card'

BHS Again Fails to Meet 'No Child' Benchmark

Belleville High School students have not made “adequate yearly progress” in mathematics in six of the last seven years, according to data contained in the annual state School Report Card, a development that could trigger drastic changes at the school.

The township’s elementary schools, however, have largely reached benchmarks established in the report card.

Asked to comment on the data, William Freda, the board of education president, said that he had not yet read the entire report card and referred a reporter to the superintendent of schools, Joseph Picardo. Picardo did not immediately return a call today.

The board is scheduled to discuss the report card at its next meeting in early March.

The report card, containing data compiled by the state Department of Education, was made public today and contains information on everything from language-arts test results to the per-classroom cost of supplies for nearly every elementary and high school in New Jersey.

First issued in 1995, the report cards now serve as the yardstick to determine whether schools meet requirements spelled out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), legislation passed under former President George Bush.

The law is designed to hold public school districts accountable for performance by measuring annual student progress in broad subject areas like math and language arts. The goal of the legislation is to ensure all students are “proficient” in these subjects by 2014.

Under NCLB, each year a certain percentage of students must achieve “proficiency” in subject areas. That percentage gets larger every year until 2014, when 100 percent of students are expected to achieve proficiency.

In New Jersey, the populations of individual schools are broken down into several sub-categories, including race and income status. Other groups include students whose first language is not English and who are in special education programs.

The performance of each of those groups is then measured at various grade levels in mathematics and language arts, for a total of 40 different categories. Failure to make “adequate yearly progress” in any one category means that the school overall has missed making adequate yearly progress. In effect, the schools must earn perfect “scores” of 40 out of 40 to achieve the ranking.

What this means is that if, for instance, the white students at a particular elementary school do not achieve minimum proficiency, that school has earned a score of 39 out of 40 -- not enough to earn a “proficient” rating for the school.

If that same school fails to achieve proficiency again the following year, the law states corrective action must be taken. With each passing year, the corrective actions become progressively more extensive.

According to the Department of Education’s website, if a school has failed to make adequate progress for six consecutive years, those measures include the implementation of a restructuring plan for the academic department involved. That, in turn, may require personnel and other changes.

Belleville High School has now entered its sixth year without making adequate yearly progress in mathematics. The high school was also deficient in language arts for five years through 2009, but achieved proficiency in that subject area in 2010, the state data show.

In 2010, however, too few special education students were ranked “proficient” in both language arts and mathematics. As a group, the school’s African-American students achieved proficiency in language arts but not in mathematics. Overall, the school met only 39 of 40 benchmarks.

Belleville Middle School also failed to make adequate yearly progress this year, in both math and language arts, for the second year in a row. And again, special education was the area where the school was found deficient: in both language arts and math, too few middle school special education students achieved proficiency. African-American students at the school were another group that did not achieve sufficient progress, in both math and language arts.

This is the second year in a row Belleville Middle School overall has failed to make adequate yearly progress.

The township’s elementary schools, however, mostly hit proficiency benchmarks. Only School 4 and School 5 failed to make adequate yearly progress, both in language arts.

The report card also contains district financial data. This showed that per-pupil cost in Belleville for 2009-10, the most recent year for which data is available, was $11,611 a year, below the state median for K-12 districts, which was $13,134 a year.

Of school districts with at least 3,500 students, Belleville had the 12th lowest per-pupil costs. Most of Belleville’s funding comes from local taxes, at 53 percent, followed by state sources, at 43 percent, and federal money, at 3 percent. Another 1 percent of spending came from surplus in 2009-10.

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