Test Scores Look Good in Sag Harbor Schools

Empty seats in a classroom at Pierson Middle-High School. Christine Sampson photo

It appears Sag Harbor kids’ and teachers’ hard work paid off in the 2017-2018 school year. Their standardized test scores are in, and results show high school Regents test scores rose in several subject areas and proficiency levels rose across the grades in elementary and middle school English and math.

According to data released Monday by the Sag Harbor School District, in grades three through eight, progress can be measured in two ways. Students who are considered proficient — meaning they scored a 3 or 4 on a scale of 4 — rose year-over-year in each individual grade. In each class of students, proficiency levels increased as they rose to their next grade level.

For example, in math, 74 percent of seventh-graders scored as proficient last year, which is an increase in their overall proficiency rate of 56 percent when they were sixth graders the year before that. And in 2016-2017, 62 percent of the seventh grade received a score of 3 or 4, meaning the year-over-year increase in seventh grade was significant as well.

Last year’s sixth graders also made significant gains, achieving a 58-percent proficiency rate, nine percentage points higher than when they were fifth graders achieving 49 percent. In the third grade, which is the first year children take the tests, 75 percent of student scored as proficient in 2017-2018 — up from 54 percent in 2016-2017.

On the English tests in grades three through eight, students also made significant gains. Seventh-graders last year scored at a proficiency rate of 72 percent, up from 52 percent when they were sixth-graders the year before, and sixth-graders last year scored at 55 percent, up from 27 percent when they were fifth-graders the year before. In 2016-2017, just 50 percent of third graders scored as proficient on the English test, while in 2017-2018, 62 percent of third graders scored as proficient.

The data showed Sag Harbor is also ahead of state averages on every grade level in English, and on every grade level except eighth grade in math. Most Pierson eighth graders do not take this particular math test because they are enrolled in a Regents-level algebra course instead.

Sag Harbor Elementary school principal Matt Malone said “there were no big surprises” when looking at the data, although the big asterisk to the elementary and middle school test scores is the opt-out factor. With some parents electing to keep their kids out of the exams for various reasons, the opt-out rate ranged from 12 percent to 44 percent over the different grades on the math tests and 8 percent to 42 percent on the English tests. Administrators said sometimes, depending on which students opt out of the tests, the overall proficiency rates can be affected.

“The reality is that our staff throughout the entire year does an excellent job in assessing students and tracking how they’re doing,” Mr. Malone said. “When you sit and look at the test that was given to a third grader whose reading skills are still solidifying, and they score a 1 or 2, it’s really not surprising.”

Pierson Middle School principal Brittany Carriero added, “Even though we have opt outs from year to year, we still are progressing for each grade.”

On the Regents exams, Pierson saw passing rates rise on the global studies (89 percent), United States history (99 percent), living environment (99 percent), Common Core algebra 2 (100 percent) and Common Core geometry (87 percent) tests. Passing rates stayed the same in Common Core English (86 percent) and physics (100 percent), while dropping in earth science (90 percent), chemistry (87 percent) and Common Core algebra (84 percent). Among the highlights was an eight-percentage-point gain in in the pass rate on the living environment and algebra 2 exams.

Pierson students struggled in some areas with “mastery” of a Regents subject, which means scoring 85 or higher on a test. Students’ mastery rates increased in United States history, living environment, earth science, physics and algebra 2, and decreased in global studies, English, chemistry, algebra and geometry. Among the highlights were a 10-percentage-point jump in mastery of the living environment test, up to 57 percent, and a nine-percentage-point jump in mastery of the United States history test, up to 89 percent. Just 26 percent of students taking chemistry mastered the test.

“Our kids are doing well,” Pierson principal Jeff Nichols said. “The big change is that our population has changed somewhat the last three or four years where we have kids who have interrupted formal educations, having not gone to school for a couple of years,” he said, noting those students still have to take the Regents exams. “If you have two or three of those students dealing with an awful lot of challenges, that can lower your pass rate.”

Scores on International Baccalaureate (IB) tests are also in. In the IB diploma program, a rigorous set of classes meant to challenge students beyond typical high school coursework and prepare them for college and beyond, the worldwide average is a total score of 30. At Pierson, last year’s 12 diploma graduates averaged a score of 31.2, making 2018 the third year in a row that Pierson students have, on average, performed better than their peers around the world. Scored on a scale of 1 to 7, Pierson students achieved an average score of 4.95 on the Higher Level IB English exam and a 4.8 on the Higher Level History exam last year. A “4” is considered passing an IB test

Advanced Placement test scores were more concerning to administrators. With students averaging a 1.7 on the AP Statistics exam and a 2.25 on the AP Government exam, out of a total score of 5, Mr. Nichols said they are reevaluating whether to continue offering these two courses. Students taking the AP Calculus test averaged 3.08 and those taking the AP World History test averaged 2.56.

Pierson’s average SAT score, an 1144 drawn from the scores of 36 test takers, ranked the school 22nd out of 99 Long Island school districts, according to a Newsdaysurvey presented by Mr. Nichols. The school’s composite ACT score of 26.4 outpaced the state’s average for the fifth year in a row.