Nutley school officials want student test scores to rise this school year and are making it a priority, school officials said this week.
Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick presented graphs of students’ test scores to the school board and a small audience at the Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
Lazovick said that overall test scores "settle in the middle of the pack," including the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, or NJASK test for grades three and eight, and the High School Proficiency Assessment, all part of federal No Child Left Behind standardized tests.
"These tests are not a single tool to evaluate students, but it does give us numbers comparable to other schools," Lazovick said.
The superintendent also said that analysis of advanced placement testing shows that students earned high letter grades but 55 percent of those students would fail AP tests by the standards set by most colleges.
When it comes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, students are again in the middle of the pack, but anywhere from 100 to 150 points behind school districts in the top 10 percent in New Jersey, Lazovick said.
"So the question for all of us as a staff is, why is this so?" Lazovick asked.
To help find the answers, Lazovick, school principals and teachers plan to divide all students into three categories, based on test scores and teacher recommendations.
First, there will the target students, who are identified as not being proficient on one or more part of math or language arts on standardized tests.
Next, there are rising students, who are proficient, but need to continue to improve with the goal of attaining advanced proficiency.
The third group is advanced students, those that are already at advanced proficiency, and need to be challenged to do even better, Lazovick said.
"What we are aiming to do is make sure that every student is improving," he said.
School board trustees Fred Scalera and Vicky Flynn complimented the presentations.
“We certainly know the Nutley schools are in good shape,” Scalera said.
Flynn said the presentation was excellent, and asked specific questions about curriculum.
After the presentation, Lazovick talked about Nutley's ranking in NJ Monthly magazine, which has risen from 160 to 140 from 2010 to 2012.
Despite the improved standing, the superintendent called the rankings "misleading."
"Some districts jumped up, while others plummeted," he said. "They changed the math."
For example, Lazovick said that the Millburn school district "Their average class size went up," he said, which changed how the district was evaluated.
NJASK or the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge is a standardized test given to all New Jersey public-schooled students, according to the state website.
The Monday night meeting also included a detailed presentation about changes in curriculum, which Lazovick is a big part of improving test scores and student performance.