Test scores show improvement, says superintendent
Also: High school EMT alums question district’s reasons for canceling program
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Oct 13, 2013 | 7081 views | 0 0 comments | 130 130 recommendations | email to a friend | print
STILL IN UNIFORM – Members of Hoboken High School’s now-disbanded Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) attended a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday in full uniform, but allowed several of the program’s successful alumni to speak on their behalf.
STILL IN UNIFORM – Members of Hoboken High School’s now-disbanded Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) attended a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday in full uniform, but allowed several of the program’s successful alumni to speak on their behalf.

Hoboken High School students made significant progress in mathematics and language arts testing last year, according to statistics released at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night. Students at the high school also achieved an increase in their scores on the SAT college entrance exam and Advance Placement (AP) subject tests.

In 2011-2012, the statewide average SAT score was 1,521 (out of 2,400), while Hoboken’s was much lower, at 1,159. But last year, students improved their scores in all three sections, bringing the average score up to 1,224, according to numbers released Tuesday.

The 2012-2013 statewide averages won’t be available until the end of the year. But superintendent of Schools Mark Toback said on Thursday that he was confident the Hoboken public schools will perform well when compared to other districts within their factor group.

Other statistics presented at the meeting showed an almost 10 percent jump from 2012 to 2013 in the high school’s graduation rate (which had dropped about the same amount the year before), but a slight decrease in attendance at all of Hoboken public schools except Brandt Elementary.

Test scores at the elementary and junior high level were more mixed, the statistics showed. While younger students at schools like Connors Elementary showed improvement in both math and language arts testing, some grades at Calabro Elementary struggled in the same areas. Elementary students at the Wallace School showed mixed results.
“This is part of the story; it’s not the whole story.” – Mark Toback on Hoboken’s test scores
With the exception of a few grades at Calabro and Wallace schools, statistics portrayed the sixth and seventh grades throughout Hoboken as the area most in need of improvement. In both math and language arts, the percentage of students designated as “partially proficient,” as opposed to “proficient” or “advanced proficiency,” increased or held steady across the board.

Eighth graders, who this year for the first time are placed into a junior high school program, showed a three-year decrease in both math and language arts. From 2011 to 2013, the number of students who scored as partially proficient rose 9 percent for language arts and 26 percent for math. Advanced proficiency level scores decreased less than 1 percent for language arts, but over six percent for math.

At the meeting Tuesday night, Toback noted that he thought the results recognized the efforts made to improve the district in recent years but also but also outlined which areas are in most need of extra help.

“This is part of the story; it’s not the whole story,” he told members of the Board of Education. “This change is going to be ongoing.”

He pointed toward the increase in the high school students’ SAT scores as a victory that is particularly noteworthy.

“These numbers aren’t where we’d like them to be, but we are starting to see students in that range,” he said, noting that the district is taking extra steps, including offering remedial and afterschool courses, to boost students’ scores.

Safer schools?

In addition to the test scores, Toback presented the results of the district’s annual Electronic Violence and Vandalism Report, which showed an overall decrease in documented instances of offenses in Hoboken schools since 2010, but a spike in situations involving weapons and vandalism since last year.

From the 2011-2012 school year to last year, instances of violence decreased from 55 to 36, but vandalism cases jumped from just two to nine, while cases involving weapons went from two to five. Toback said he understood why parents might be alarmed by the increase in weapons, but said that all but one of the cases involved knives, “sometimes very small knives,” and that several of the instances didn’t take place inside a school, but on school property. The fifth case involved a BB-gun, not inside a school building, though.

Additionally, 12 instances violating the state’s anti-bullying Bill of Rights, which was passed in 2010, were recorded this year, though there was no comparison available because it was the first year the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) codes took full affect.

Toback said he was encouraged by the report’s findings and that he thought it was particularly fitting that the results come on the eve of the district’s Anti-Bullying Week, during which several schools will participate in various activities centered on building respect and community.

High School EMTs press their case

Several members of the now-defunct high school Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program, which was cancelled at the beginning of the year due to concerns over the program’s liability, funding, and generated interest, attended the board meeting on Tuesday, but chose not to speak.

Instead, several graduates of the program, many who are now working successfully in a medical profession or elsewhere, spoke for them. Some mothers of children in the program also spoke.

“This program changed my life completely,” said Angelica Montero, who graduated from Hoboken High School in 2006, now has a Master’s degree in psychology and works at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Montero seemed to be on a mission to debunk several of the reasons the district gave for canceling the program, including claims made by Toback that interest in the program had declined and participation could damage a student’s academic achievement because they would have to leave class to answer a 911 call.

“When we started, we only had three kids, and last year they had six or seven,” she said. “You’re not allowed to participate unless you have good grades in the first place, and our teachers were more than happy to help us catch up on anything we missed if we had to leave.”

John Mehta, a classmate of Montero’s, told school board members that they should be ashamed of canceling a program that was not only beneficial to the students but to the city as a whole.

And Kelly Turner, whose daughter is currently a senior and has been enrolled in the program for three years, said her daughter was “going crazy without the program.”

Toback was firm in his stance that the program could not be reinstated without significant overhaul. He outlined his concerns in a letter to school board members which was also posted to the district’s website and estimated that running the program properly would cost somewhere in the region of $150,000 to $200,000 per year.

Toback also released a statement after a Reporter cover story ran regarding the program, listing several additional reasons why it could not be reinstated. He said that last year, one of the program’s supervisors was arrested after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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