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Manchester Superintendent Outlines District Achievement Patterns

David Trethaway presents test data showing comparative performance of Manchester schools


At Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway led a PowerPoint presentation aimed at detailing the passing percentage achievement totals of schools in the district (from various grade levels) over a three-year period, in comparison to both state passing rate totals and those from Manchester’s district factor group (see attached PDF presentation). The tests used to help collect data in the presentation were taken by students in the spring of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

“There’s a big emphasis on test scores and data collection (now),” said Trethaway. “But, I think we all agree it’s an important part, we’re just concerned about the measurement and how you interpret the data. As you know, when you get data, it can be used a lot of different ways.”

Trethaway explained that the state of New Jersey was moving towards a “growth model” for interpreting its scoring data, which will follow a certain grade level as they progress from year to year, instead of examining results from the same grade level each year. “What they’re looking for in New Jersey is being able to track our students’ progress, from third grade to fourth grade, fourth grade to fifth grade, and so on,” said the superintendent.

Trethaway went to discuss the concept of adequate yearly progress (AYP), which is a measurement defined by the “No Child Left Behind” Act and details how schools and school districts across the country perform on standardized tests. “The whole point of No Child Left Behind is that everyone in every state would pass (standardized tests) by 2014. I don’t think that’s actually an achievable goal for every student across the whole United States,” Trethaway remarked, adding that tests and their difficulty vary from state to state as well.

According to page 2 of the PowerPoint presentation, only 59 percent of New Jersey students in third grade through fifth grade would need to pass Language Arts to make adequate yearly progress from 2008 to 2010. However, beginning this year and continuing until 2013, that same group of students would need twenty percent more of the group to pass, at 79 percent, to continue meeting that same standard of achievement.

“Theoretically, you could have had 60 percent last year and meet AYP. This year you could have had 78 percent and improved your score, but not met AYP. They’ve raised the bar that much,” Trethaway stated.

Pages 4 and 5 of the presentation examined the results of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), a test given to students at in March of their junior year.

The slide on the Language Arts portion showed that Manchester Township ranked ahead of both the state and their district factor group in each demographic category, including “General”, “Black”, “Hispanic” and “Economically Disadvantaged”, coming in lower than the state score in only the “Special Education” category.

The slide on the Math portion revealed that Manchester Township also ranked ahead of both the state and their district factor group in each demographic category, with the exception of “General”. “That’s pretty significant that throughout the whole total, we’re higher and in some cases, significantly higher than both the state and our district factor group,” Trethaway stated.

The next series of presentation slides (pages 7-12) were dedicated to measuring performance of students from third grade to fourth grade on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) exam from 2009 to 2010, in both Language Arts and Math.

Last year, the state average in Language Arts was 59.7 percent with passing grades, and third-graders logged below the state average with a total of 53.8. However, this year, the now-fourth graders improved their total to 67.4, above the state total of 62.7. “We moved up by about 14 points. That’s significant, that’s a positive graph,” Trethaway said.

In 2010, Whiting Elementary School third-grade students had 66.7 percent of the students earn passing grades in Math, which was both below the state (78.1) and district factor group (70) totals. However, in 2011, the now-fourth graders brought their Math total up a full seventeen points to 83.7, which now puts them ahead of both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals. “From third to fourth grade, some really positive things happened, in both Language Arts and Math,” Trethaway commented.

At , a similar pattern emerged. In Language Arts, third-grade students had a 58.1 percent passing rate, which put them well ahead of the district factor group total of 48.1, but just under the state average of 59.3. This year, those now-fourth graders improved their Language Arts passing rate percentage to 69.9, putting them above the state average of 62.7, and figurative miles ahead of the district factor group average of 49.7. “Again, a positive graph,” the superintendent said.

In Math, there was a slight decline at Manchester Township Elementary School. In 2010, 87.2 percent of third-grade students passed, well ahead of both the state (78.1) and district factor group (70) totals. In 2011, the now-fourth graders had their Math passing rate average drop nearly six points to 81.7; however, they were still ahead of both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals.

“We dropped, but we still didn’t drop below the state. Obviously we didn’t grow like the state did,” Trethaway advised.

At , third-grade students scored a 49.4 passing rate average in Language Arts, which was between the state (59.7) and district factor group (48.8) totals. However, in 2011, those now-fourth graders brought their Language Arts passing totals up slightly to 50.6, which again puts them between both the state (62.7) and district factor group (49.7) totals.

“We moved up slightly, but not necessarily as much as we wanted to,” the superintendent said of those results.

In 2010, Whiting Elementary School third-grade students scored a 76.3 passing rate average in Math, which was both below the state (78.1) and above the district factor group (70) totals. However, in 2011, the now-fourth graders had their Math passing totals drop significantly to 66.2, which now puts them below both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals.

“Of course, you have to go back and see what some of the factors are that led to that, to make sure that we don’t do that again. When you look at the graphs where we’re improving, what are some of the factors that led to those that we want to continue,” Trethaway rhetorically commented.

Pages 13-18 of the PowerPoint presentation took a look at how third grade students progressed to fifth grade in each of the various elementary schools in the district, and how they performed on the NJASK exam in both Language Arts and Math from 2009 to 2011.

Last year, the state passing rate average in Language Arts was a total of 59.7, and Whiting Elementary third-graders logged below the state average with a total of 53.8. However, this year, the now-fourth graders improved their totals to 67.4, above the state average of 62.7. “We moved up by about 14 points. That’s significant, that’s a positive graph,” Trethaway said.

In 2009, Whiting Elementary School students had a poor Language Arts passing rate average of 39.1, which was then improved to 58.7 in 2010, and again to 61.7 in 2011, putting them ahead of both the state and district factor group totals. This improvement also carried through to Math totals at the school. In 2009, Whiting Elementary School students had a Math passing rate average of 71.8, which was then improved to 76.1 in 2010, and again to 77.3 in 2011, eventually putting them in between the state and district factor group totals.

For Manchester Township Elementary School, Language Arts totals for third-graders in 2009-2011 are now above both the state and district factor group totals, where they once lay in between them. In Math, the school ranked below both the state and district factor group with a low average passing rate of 61.9 in 2009, but underwent a near 22-point turnaround to raise that total average up to 83.5 this year.

“These are things that are working for us, that we want to continue,” Trethaway commented.

At Ridgeway Elementary School, Language Arts totals from 2009-2011 were consistent, keeping in between the state and district factor group totals during all three years. In Math, that pattern of keeping in between the state and district factor group totals also held true.

Finally, at , students were tracked from sixth grade through eighth grade in 2009 to 2011, also for the NJASK exam. In Language Arts, Manchester started above both the state and district factor group totals with 70.9 in 2009, had a dip down to 58.7 in 2010, and then scored another huge rebound with an average passing total of 82.9, now putting them above both the state and district factor group totals.

In Math, Manchester Township Middle School has always been above both the state and district factor group totals all three years, with 78.8 in 2009, 72.5 in 2010 and 80.5 this year.

“I think that (these results) put things in some perspective, when myself and Mr. Tom Baxter talk to the principals, literacy coaches, and the supervisors about what are some of the programs that seem to be working, and what are some of the reasons we dropped down in some of those areas,” Trethaway concluded.

Baxter, the District's Director of Curriculum, followed up the superintendent by mentioning that the Core Standards K-12 test has begun implementation throughout the district, with Math currently available and Language Arts coming shortly.

“Assessment committees are meeting and developing a grade-level test where we can start to look at where the standards are; where weak areas and strong areas are, and find out where we have to go from that point,” Mr. Baxter commented.

Baxter added that “anomalies” in the achievement totals highlighted in this presentation would be discussed with school principals in the district in the near future.

Da Gr8 1 November 19, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Totaly unacceptable. There should be much higher scores on these for what our taxes go into these schools. These clowns like Baxter cry to the township for more money from the residents so his pockets can get lined. And how do some of these scores go up so dramaticaly when the first marking period just ended? Looks like the schools are going by total year numbers in 10-11 to just a partial score in 11-12. My daughter has told me she has not taken any of these state tests yet so I have no idea how the schools are coming up with these numbers. Like i said earlier....totaly unaccecptable and Tom Baxter should claim ownership and admit he is not doing a good job.
Lee B November 19, 2011 at 11:48 PM
These tests are taken in the Spring - all of the 2011 results quoted are for last year (2010-11). Also, these numbers are not average scores, they are the percentage of students who scored proficient or above.
Nick Malfitano November 20, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Lee is correct, the incorrect references in the article have now been updated. My thanks to her for clearing that up and setting the record straight.
Mark Wendell November 20, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Tom Baxter has been on the job for one whole marking period. Hardly enough time to prove himself and not enough time to have the last test results in. Give the guy a break. All da grt8 1 does is assault anything from Manchester Schools and rarely has a grasp on what has really happened. Hardly great.
Da Gr8 1 November 21, 2011 at 05:28 AM
Mark...you idiot...I did not assult Manchester schools. I assulted Tom Baxter. I have seen his ineptness through the years at the Middle School. The numbers speak for themselves. Judging by the way that you can not read it looks to me that you had Baxter as a teacher. I am not surprised. Next time you make an asinine comment make sure you know what the hell you are talking about.
Mark Wendell November 21, 2011 at 06:03 AM
No it was you who did not understand the article. Those were last years results and you clearly thought they were this years done in the first marking period. Anyone who has paid attention to their kids in school would know that this years test come back next year. You very clearly stated this. Also Manchester is right about were the "normal" is in NJ. Manchester is after in a all a lower district factor group. And as for the the other thing you rip EVERYTHING about Manchester schools on a continuous rate. You say you ripped Tom Baxter but the man has been on his current job for one marking period. Also I was not educated in Manchester at all.
Da Gr8 1 November 21, 2011 at 06:17 AM
Then I have a question for you since you know all. Why is our taxes going up again to support the schools if we are a lower district factor group? Where is our state aid like Newark Camden and Paterson get if we are in the bottom of the state? Ill tell you where its going...to line the imbicliles pockets like Tom Baxter and David Trethaway. These superintendents should not get any raises until we reach our goals and we arent a "lower district factor group." It is embarassing and you should be ashamed of yourself for supporting these so called leaders who have ran the schools piss poorly for all of these years.
Mark Wendell November 21, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Once again you prove you don't know a thing . District factor is economic and not a result of test results. Ask our gov why he lowered our aid by 6 mil. Those other district you mention are Abbott districts we are not.
Da Gr8 1 November 22, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Our gov did it cuz this state is broke thanks to the jerkoffs that preceded him. So now your saying were not poor enough to be classified as a lower district??? No wonder why our kids cant pass any tests. We have idiots who dont know where we should be classified.
Mark Wendell November 24, 2011 at 12:37 AM
We are not the lowest but one of the lowest. The senior population throws it all out of wack. We have low incomes because they live on a pension or soc sec and then we have the 2 small working class devolopments. If we were more working class with a fancy part or two we would have a district factor group, say, simular to that of Toms River or Brick. Towns like Manchester have a low state aid rate and an almost no federal aid. A town like Lakewood is also hurt becuse most of the school kids are poor but most of the rest of town is not. Asbury and Neptune are on the other end of the scale. Manchester is stuck in the middle, its the state's formula and I believe the current administration is doing the best they can with limited funds. THE SATE MANDATES AND WE PAY.
Mark Wendell November 24, 2011 at 12:40 AM
If I remember right we are close to, at, or just over 80% local funded. Maybe LeeB can tell us.

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