By Christine Sampson
Regents test scores are in with overall high marks for Pierson High School, where students also made gains on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams and ranked high among local high schools in SAT results.
According to a presentation by Pierson principal Jeff Nichols given during Monday’s school board meeting, pass rates ranged from 79 percent on the Common Core Geometry Regents — a test that was considered extremely difficult — to 100 percent on the Physics Regents exam.
“We did very, very well across the board,” Mr. Nichols said.
A “passing” score is 65 or above, while a “mastery” score is 85 or above. Although some of the subject-specific tests saw pass rates decline, including a dip from 96 percent to 86 percent on the English exam and 100 percent to 92 percent on the Common Core Algebra II test, the district saw mastery rates increase in many areas. Those included a jump from 56 percent to 68 percent of students mastering the Global Studies Regents exam and an increase from 17 percent to 21 percent of students mastering the Common Core Algebra II test.
Reached by phone on Tuesday, Mr. Nichols said the administration is looking for patterns. He used the Living Environment test, formerly known as Biology, as an example. Students’ pass rate dipped slightly, from 94 percent to 91 percent, with the mastery rate going from 70 percent to 47 percent.
“I noticed there was a bit of a dip in the mastery rate in Living Environment, 47 percent still being very high, but we have to monitor that moving forward to see if that is an anomaly or a trend,” he said. “But that could be three or four kids scoring an 83 or 84 instead of an 85.”
Another example was Geometry, which 79 percent of students passed, down from 96 percent. Only 29 percent of students scored at the mastery level, compared to 60 percent last year. But before the administration forms an action plan, Mr. Nichols said, he needs data on this test from other school districts.
“I’d like to see all the assessments continue to improve, but geometry was a bit of a concern,” he said. “There was a lot of talk following this Regents exam that the test was very difficult and a lot of students really had trouble with it. The initial feedback was the assessment was very difficult and the scores reflected that.”
School board president Diana Kolhoff, who herself is an educational consultant who teaches education professionals best practices in math instruction, said after Monday’s meeting that “the proficiency rates on the Regents exams are nice, but I’d love to see more growth in the mastery rates.”
When it came to Advanced Placement (AP) tests — on which a passing score is considered a 3 on a scale of 5 — the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher rose from 41 percent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2017. The number of students taking tests was slightly down from last year, 73 students as opposed to 79. Tests are offered in Calculus, Statistics, World History and Government. Mr. Nichols said areas of concern include Statistics, on which the average score was 2.08, and Government, on which the average score was 2.29.
“I’d like to see those scores higher,” Mr. Nichols said Tuesday. “We’re going to work with the instructors towards making them higher, by offering a conference or communicating with other teachers to make that happen.”
He explained two of the AP courses, Statistics and Government, “are sort of elective offerings that aren’t drawing perhaps the students who are as motivated as they were in the past before the introduction of IB” in the 2012-13 school year.
On the IB tests, which are graded on a scale of 7, a score of 4 is considered passing. Of the 69 students enrolled in at least one IB course in 2016, 83 percent scored at least 4 or higher on their tests, up from 80 percent the previous year. Pass rates were 100 percent on standard-level Spanish, Biology, Math Studies and Art and on higher-level Physics and Art.
“I thought IB was really strong,” Mr. Nichols said Tuesday.
The district has an open enrollment policy for its AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, which are college-level classes and offer the possibility of earning college credits for high scores on end-of-course tests. That means no prerequisites, such as other advanced courses or minimum grade-point averages, are required for entrance into these classes, as is the policy in other school districts.
“I agree with Mr. Nichols that students who wouldn’t otherwise normally challenge themselves should be supported, rather than having a focus on criteria to be selective on who takes those courses,” Ms. Kolhoff said. “I think it speaks to the growth mindset in the district that all kids can achieve t a high level.”
SAT and ACT scores were also released Monday. Sag Harbor’s average SAT score was 1,586, ranking the district the 28th-best out of 98 districts on Long Island, according to a report by Newsday. On the East End, only the Westhampton Beach School District had a higher average SAT score, at 1,602. On the ACT, which fewer students took, Sag Harbor’s average score was 25.6, higher than the state average of 24.2 but down slightly from the previous year’s average of 26.1.
“I think that it’s certainly impressive that we rank so high on Long Island, I do need to acknowledge that we don’t have some of the demographic challenges that other districts have,” Ms. Kolhoff said. “Mr. Nichols spoke of late arrivals to this country, different schools having more at risk students who might be experiencing different things or economically disadvantaged students. We may not have as many of those challenges, but I was still very impressed with how high we were on the rankings.”