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BHS Again Fails to Meet 'No Child' Benchmark

Deficiencies in Special Education Highlighted in State 'Report Card'

Belleville High School students have not made “adequate yearly progress” in mathematics in six of the last seven years, according to data contained in the annual state School Report Card, a development that could trigger drastic changes at the school.

The township’s elementary schools, however, have largely reached benchmarks established in the report card.

Asked to comment on the data, William Freda, the board of education president, said that he had not yet read the entire report card and referred a reporter to the superintendent of schools, Joseph Picardo. Picardo did not immediately return a call today.

The board is scheduled to discuss the report card at its next meeting in early March.

The report card, containing data compiled by the state Department of Education, was made public today and contains information on everything from language-arts test results to the per-classroom cost of supplies for nearly every elementary and high school in New Jersey.

First issued in 1995, the report cards now serve as the yardstick to determine whether schools meet requirements spelled out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), legislation passed under former President George Bush.

The law is designed to hold public school districts accountable for performance by measuring annual student progress in broad subject areas like math and language arts. The goal of the legislation is to ensure all students are “proficient” in these subjects by 2014.

Under NCLB, each year a certain percentage of students must achieve “proficiency” in subject areas. That percentage gets larger every year until 2014, when 100 percent of students are expected to achieve proficiency.

In New Jersey, the populations of individual schools are broken down into several sub-categories, including race and income status. Other groups include students whose first language is not English and who are in special education programs.

The performance of each of those groups is then measured at various grade levels in mathematics and language arts, for a total of 40 different categories. Failure to make “adequate yearly progress” in any one category means that the school overall has missed making adequate yearly progress. In effect, the schools must earn perfect “scores” of 40 out of 40 to achieve the ranking.

What this means is that if, for instance, the white students at a particular elementary school do not achieve minimum proficiency, that school has earned a score of 39 out of 40 -- not enough to earn a “proficient” rating for the school.

If that same school fails to achieve proficiency again the following year, the law states corrective action must be taken. With each passing year, the corrective actions become progressively more extensive.

According to the Department of Education’s website, if a school has failed to make adequate progress for six consecutive years, those measures include the implementation of a restructuring plan for the academic department involved. That, in turn, may require personnel and other changes.

Belleville High School has now entered its sixth year without making adequate yearly progress in mathematics. The high school was also deficient in language arts for five years through 2009, but achieved proficiency in that subject area in 2010, the state data show.

In 2010, however, too few special education students were ranked “proficient” in both language arts and mathematics. As a group, the school’s African-American students achieved proficiency in language arts but not in mathematics. Overall, the school met only 39 of 40 benchmarks.

Belleville Middle School also failed to make adequate yearly progress this year, in both math and language arts, for the second year in a row. And again, special education was the area where the school was found deficient: in both language arts and math, too few middle school special education students achieved proficiency. African-American students at the school were another group that did not achieve sufficient progress, in both math and language arts.

This is the second year in a row Belleville Middle School overall has failed to make adequate yearly progress.

The township’s elementary schools, however, mostly hit proficiency benchmarks. Only School 4 and School 5 failed to make adequate yearly progress, both in language arts.

The report card also contains district financial data. This showed that per-pupil cost in Belleville for 2009-10, the most recent year for which data is available, was $11,611 a year, below the state median for K-12 districts, which was $13,134 a year.

Of school districts with at least 3,500 students, Belleville had the 12th lowest per-pupil costs. Most of Belleville’s funding comes from local taxes, at 53 percent, followed by state sources, at 43 percent, and federal money, at 3 percent. Another 1 percent of spending came from surplus in 2009-10.

debbi memoli February 08, 2011 at 11:22 PM
i believe the town of Belleville- as a whole- has been forever overlooked- somehow- there is no one watching the store! or no one cares to!! i hope with the six years in BH deficiency to meet schools standards- & the middle school starting down the same road- someone out there will look into this & actually do something about it!!!
Ellen February 09, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Does no one see the fact that these junior and senior high students are failing to make the grade? How is it then that the children in the grammar schools do? Do these children forget how to learn once they get in the higher grades? Or where they all go somewhere else for grammar school? I for one am tired of my County and Local taxes going up year after year to support a failing system. Our children need to be tested from pre-K to Senior's to see just exactly where the problem begins . Our teachers need to be tested for their ability to teach their perspective subjects. Anyone who knows anything about education knows that if a child begins to fall behind in the 8th grade,for example, the problem started in the 7th grade. I live around the block from a school and I can tell you that it's quite a joke to see who can get out of the school faster when the bell rings, the teachers or the children.
Paul Milo (Editor) February 09, 2011 at 05:17 AM
Debbi, Ellen, oversight is definitely an issue. What makes things even more complicated is that changes may be coming to the NCLB law, a Rutgers professor told me. A spokeswoman at the US dept of education also told me that the NCLB is very complicated when it comes to enforcing the provisions. I'd like to take another look at the data and see if this pattern -- grade schools basically doing OK, middle and high school less so -- is consistent for several years.
Jeff Mattingly February 09, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Thank you Paul for breaking down complicated statistcal information for us. I am wondering how many proficent children are removed from our public schools at the middle school level? Also, when I saw all the $ that was approved by the board for sports programs directors, asst. coaches, etc,,, it reminded me of something a former board member told me, that the largest teaching staff at the high school was the recreation dept. I was very sports oriented as a child as were many of my friends and none of us, to the best of my knowledge, when on to be professional athelets. Maybe it is time to seek out some qualifies volunteer asst. coaches, reduce the extras paid to coaches and hire some tudors. They may have a student totoring program as well, if not it should be considered
Anonymous February 09, 2011 at 08:01 PM
The African-American population is significantly outnumbered in Belleville as opposed to the Hispanic, White, and Asian population. According to a recent study done in the area, the African-American sect of Belleville only accounts for 7% of the population. Why then are they the focus of the article. More than once, the author uses statistical information to denigrate the black population and use them as an example of the failure: "too few special education students were ranked “proficient” in both language arts and mathematics. As a group, the school’s African-American students achieved proficiency in language arts but not in mathematics. Overall, the school met only 39 of 40 benchmarks." "And again, special education was the area where the school was found deficient: in both language arts and math, too few middle school special education students achieved proficiency. African-American students at the school were another group that did not achieve sufficient progress, in both math and language arts."
Anonymous February 09, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Moreover, I find it convenient that when African-Americans are the subject, it is only in conjunction with special education. Is the implication, therefore, that African-Americans are equatable with Special Ed. students, and should be grouped with them? Where do the Hispanics, who account for more than 40% of the population lie in this article? Or any other racial or ethnic group? Despite the surface attempt to profile the amount of failure going on this school district, the linguistics of the article do a far better job of implicating and targeting specific groups for the under-performance. Oh, and it's written poorly.
Paul Milo (Editor) February 09, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Anonymous, I'll try to address your concerns here. First, and least importantly, with regards to the writing: all I can say is that it's very challenging to take a lot of arcane data and turn it into an article that is informative without being dry, and comprehensive without being over-long. I gave it my best shot, but sure, undoubtedly, there are writers out there who could have done a better job. I'll work on it. I mean that sincerely too. With regards to the second point, however, I must take issue with you. The state is required by federal law to place students in categories that include "special education", "Hispanic", "white", "LEP" (basically referring to non-native English speakers), Asian, etc. The state is required to assess the proficiency of each of these groups. As I reported, according to those assessments, unfortunately, African-Americans and special ed students did not meet the benchmarks established by the state. For whatever reason, this year all the other groups at the middle and high schools did. To refrain from reporting this fact is, in my opinion, a half-step away from lying. Short of ignoring racial-economic-cultural differences altogether (which, again in my opinion, does no one any good), I don't know how else you could report this story.
Terri Durr February 09, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Okay, so when I took my son out of Belleville to go to a private high school, the school officials tried very hard to change my mind. My son always scored very high on these tests, and taking him out was taking one child away that could help up their numbers. Now my daughter is in 8th grade and doesn't want to go to BHS. And I don't know what to do with her. I can't afford to send her to private school, or to move for that matter. My son's friends are sitting here with me, and I just asked them what would help them learn better. They all said better teachers. Why doesn't anyone ask the students what they need to help them learn better? When my son was in 4th grade, I had to spend $2,000 to send him to the Sylvan Learning Center for math. The school bitched me out for that, telling me that there was nothing wrong with his grade. He had a C, heading for a D. 4th grade is the most important year for math. If they don't get the fundamentals in 4th grade, they'll never be able to get it in higher grades. Something really needs to be done here. Yet, the board thinks there's never anything wrong.
Ashley February 10, 2011 at 09:12 PM
If I may, I am currently a sophomore in BHS. I am also currently trying to get the attention of the board of ed. and local media and residents. The problem in mine and the majority of BHS students' eyes(and quite a few teachers) is that the administration and faculty are concentrating far too much energy and time on things that do not matter and almost neglecting the real problem at hand. For example: class rosters that are far too big for one teacher, policies that are doing more harm than good, and generalizing students in groups that almost sacrifice the well-being of most students to only "reach" a few "special kids." Being a student there is honestly almost embarrassing from the way we get treated to the way that the administration proposes we fix some "issues". Something really has to be done. I am trying to do my best and others as well. Thank you.
Paul Milo (Editor) February 10, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Ashley, if you're willing to talk I'd like to hear what you have to say (I just have to make sure it's OK with your parent or guardian first; I'd like to talk to him/her/them too). I can be reached at 973-204-3548 or paul.milo@patch.com.
Gabriela February 22, 2011 at 03:19 AM
The Board of education's only concerns have nothing to do with education , that's ironic. Its all about dress code , wearing i.d.s , and the cell phone policy . Well, I pull my own weight . I'm a current member of the National Honors Society and will be graduating from Belleville High School in June . Even though I will be leaving I am still concerned because my younger brother is still a Belleville student. The focus of the board of education should be the teachers' skill in educating students. I know for a fact there are teachers in that school who rush home right after school and do not offer extra help. There are other teachers who spend the whole class period going over the dress code and cell phone policy. I feel as though everyone has forgotten about education therefore the students are suffering .

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