July 24, 2003
grade math scores increase dramatically over last year's numbers
- Efforts to improve dwindling mathematics scores on the Grade Eight
Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) administered by the N.J. Department
of Education each spring have paid off for students here. After
two years of decline, there was an estimated 18-percent increase
in the number of students passing the test this year.
Curriculum coordinator Ginger McBrair said scores on state assessments
were up across the board this year. Students passed assessments
in mathematics, language arts and science. "We went up in all
areas," she said. "In math, it was a big jump, a fabulous
More than 88 percent of the students taking the test scored proficient
or advanced proficient in language arts; 72 percent passed in mathematics
and 84.7 percent pass in science.
McBrair credited the efforts of teachers and administrators for
the dramatic increase in math. "We went from 54 percent passing
to 72 percent passing. We are really pleased to see such improvement."
Despite its efforts to improve the mathematics curriculum, school
officials were at a loss to explain decreases in student performance
in 2001 and 2002. Since the state started administering the test
in 1999, student performance in the math portion of the test declined
16.8 percent to 54.3 percent passing last year.
McBrair said the district implemented a comprehensive program to
improve instruction in math, including offering students more opportunities
to get help after school. "This year, we were able to pull
it all together," she said.
Teachers met in teams every month to coordinate lesson plans and
evaluate their students to determine if instruction needed to be
tailored to overcome their deficiencies.
"They analyzed the data to provide the proper instructional
techniques for each of these students," McBrair said.
Borderline students received an extended math period of 70 minutes
instead of the usual 42-minute math class and eight after-school
programs were developed to offer students homework help.
"Teachers prepared a lot of extra problem-solving lessons for
the students to use in the after-school programs," she said.
The district also purchased a new math textbook series for the middle
school level and enlisted the help of educational consultant Betsy
McShea of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to write a
The number of students performing in the advanced proficient category
with a score of 200 or in higher also increased, from 20 in 2002
to 55 this year, McBrair said.
This year, 229 students took the tests during a week in March. In
addition to a 17.7 percent increase in the percentage of students
passing mathematics, the number of students passing language arts
increased 5.4 percent and 3.7 percent in science over last year.