LITTLE FALLS, NJ -  Little Falls School District superintendent Tracey Marinelli gave a Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) presentation at the Sept. 18 Township Council workshop meeting. The information was given by the state on the prior school year's testing performance data. 

Councilwoman Maria Martini Condonnier welcomed the educators of the district, in addition to Marinelli, who were in attendance. Among them were Phil Ligus, principal of School No.1; Jill Castaldo, principal of School No. 2; and Nicole Dilkes, principal of School No. 3. Also in attendance was the district's business administrator Carol DelSandro, as well as several members of the board of education. Cordonnier gave special thanks to Passaic Valley High School superintendent, Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, for supporting the local school district.

Marinelli went through a series of slides showing data consisting of a comparison of scores in the district with the state's average.

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"Back in 2014, the community came together and developed a strategic plan and that was to take the district through to 2019," said Marinelli. "It's very important to report the progress the district is making throughout that plan as it was such a big part of the community.  So many people came together to help develop it."

The plan consisted of six goals, which were student achievement, curriculum, technology and facilities, finance, security, and communications and public relations.

Marinelli reported to council members that the district has identified by the NJ Department of Education's Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) monitoring, taking place every three years, as a high performing district.

"This is the first time this district has been categorized as such and you need to receive 80 percent or higher in the areas of instruction and fiscal management, governance, operations and personnel," she added. 

She added that the district is also competitive on statewide standardized assessment.

"We attribute that to a lot of the activities that the team is doing together," she explained. "In every grade level, Little Falls is outperforming the state."

She highlighted a graph showing that in mathematics, the district outperformed the state average by 22 percent in third grade, 26 percent in fourth grade, 7 percent in fifth grade, 13 percent in sixth grade, 12 percent in seventh grade, and 40 percent in eighth grade. It also had a column showing that in Algebra 1, the district outperformed the state average by 55 percent.

Marinelli also highlighted the English/Language Arts scores, showing that the district was consistently higher than the state's average by 18 percent in third grade, 22 percent in fourth grade, 26 percent in fifth grade, 29 percent in sixth grade higher, 17 percent in seventh grade, and 11 percent in eighth grade.

"Our students are meeting and exceeding the standards," she noted, adding that over the past three years, the district has shown significant gains in both areas. 

NJASK science scores were also given, which are for fourth and eight grades. A slide showing the score for fourth grade entailed one percent partially proficient, compared to the state average of 14.4. A slide showing eighth grade scoring showed 14.7 partial proficient compared to the state average of 27.8.

"It is important to get proficient but the ultimate goal is to get to higher level, which is advanced proficient," she stated. "I'm proud to report to you that in both grade levels every content area we are scoring well above the state's average." 

She attributed the district's achievement to fulfillment of goals and being competitive with 21st century learning skills. 

"I really don't like that verbiage because 21st century is the year 2000 and look at how far we've come today."

Technology has also been increasingly utilized in all the classrooms. Students are given devices to borrow through the school year. At School No. 1, middle school students were given Chromebooks that they will have from fifth through eighth grades. Students from School No. 2 were each given iPads, while students at School No. 3 were given a combination of both. There is an AV rover 3D phonics learning machine, as well as STEAM classes, Google classroom, a robot and OSMO, an educational game system for the iPad.

"It helps students use technology to work on math, reading, writing, speaking and engineering," Marinelli explained, adding that the district has been identified as an OSMO ambassador district. "This device allows them to use technology and students in a group of five can work on them using an iPad."

Other highlights included the language art collaboration with Passaic Valley High School. Select eighth grade students attend a zero period at the high school and to take Italian, which she said is successful.

"They take the course before the school day begins and this extended language opportunity will allow them to take AP Italian in their senior year, if they choose to," she said. 'We saw such great success with that so we offered a STEM Explorations, which will allow them to get into newly designed pathways over at the high school. In addition, we now have STEM as an elective and offer STEM classes throughout the schools."

An array of electives are also offered district-wide.

"We a bringing a variety of electives to our students in order to be competitive," she added. "I just like seeing everyone is together here tonight, that's the most important message this evening It really does take a village and it requires everyone working together to move the district forward."   

She also added that a useful tool has been the District Evaluation Advisory Committee.

"It's a group who have gotten together to evaluate data, teachers and administrators on a school level will help us make decisions that will move the district farther and at the most rapid pace."

The presentation can be found on the district's website, under the 2016-2017 assessment presentation.

Mayor's Proclamations

Mayor James Damiano and council honored the seventh and eighth grade girls softball team of the Little Falls Athletic Club (LFAC) for their win in the 2017 Passaic Valley Softball Association Championship.

In addition, he also read a proclamation as September being Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

"September, in addition to prostate cancer is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month," Damiano stated. "We call attention to a disease through the state and county with the American Cancer Society estimates in the United States over 14,000 American women are projected to lose their lives to ovarian cancer in 2017. The best defense against cancer is early detection. The township of Little Falls supports the work of the New Jersey Office of Cancer Control and prevention and its many partners and backers."

St. Baldrick's Foundation

Joseph Wenzel, township council attorney, took part in shaving his head to help raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation, a non-profit organization with the aim of raising funds to help find cures for children with cancer.

"It's little bit we can do to raise money and look a little silly," he said.