West Orange Board of Education Discusses Advanced Placement Testing Results and Charter School Application Response

The West Orange Board of Education met Monday night. Credits: Daniel Eckert

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Principal of West Orange High School Arthur Alloggiamento summarized the advanced placement (AP) results of West Orange High School students who took these tests last year before the board of education and the public at a meeting on Monday night at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.

The total number of students who took one of the 21 AP tests offered last year was 329 compared to 163 who took the test just eight years ago in 2003. A total of 668 exams were taken last year as some of the 329 students took more then one AP test,  according to Alloggiamento.

“You could see that we have over a 100 percent increase from 2003 to 2011,” Alloggiamento said. “We have a number of kids who take AP, but I think we can do more,” he added.

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Last year, the percentage of students at West Orange High School who received a score of 3 or better on an AP test was 79.3. The tests are graded on a 1-5 scale with 3 considered a passing mark, according to Alloggiamento. A total of 74.6 percent of students in New Jersey received a 3 or higher on AP tests and 60.2 percent of students who took the test nationally earned a passing grade.

Alloggiamento also shared that last week the West Orange school district was named to the AP Achievement List by the college board for significant gains in advanced placement access and student performance.

“This was given to 388 districts around the country for recognition for their work in AP.  We (West Orange) increased the number of kids taking AP and the access of our AP courses and maintained the high grades of at least a 3 overall,” Alloggiamento said.

Newsweek also recognized the West Orange school district for their AP results, ranking them in the top six percent of the nation, Alloggiamento mentioned.

While the AP results speak for themselves, Alloggiamento discussed ways for the district to continue this success. He cited that it was important for not only teachers, but for parents to challenge students to enroll in more AP courses.

Other ideas to continue this success are to encourage and support teachers to implement ideas for new AP courses in their areas of expertise.  Alloggiamento mentioned that recently it has been the practice for the district to hire teachers with a masters degree to instruct AP courses.

In other news, Board President Laura Lab and Superintendent Dr. Anthony Cavanna talked about a letter that they drafted to New Jersey education commissioner Christopher Cerf objecting the application of the Hua Mei Charter School.

Citing several concerns, the main reason the board objects to the application is that the district already has a strong Mandarin Chinese program in place that is offered to students in grades 8-12. There is also an advanced placement course in Chinese offered at the high school, according to Lab.

Also, the recognition of another charter school would put a burden on the tax payers who would have to pay for a “duplicate of programs.”

“The board of education’s position is that we are not necessarily against all charter schools, but we are against the duplication of programs that are exceeding in this district,” Lab said.

Cavanna mentioned that if this application is passed for the approval of this school, then about $300,000-$400,000 will have to be set aside in the school’s budget for it. The reasoning for this is because of a law that says if a student in the district does decide to go to a charter school, then the district assumes 90 percent of all costs for that pupil, according to Cavanna.

Lab then read the closing argument provided in the letter for the objection of the Hua Mei Charter School.

“Diverting tax dollars from a school district to fund a charter school is based upon the philosophy that the public schools are underachieving and and failing to properly educate their students; so consequently, there must be readily available alternative options for the student.”

“That threshold has clearly not been met as evidenced by our exemplarily program. There is no cause to grant this application and to do so would be a grave injustice to the taxpayers of West Orange.” 

West Orange High School math and computer science teacher Frank Iannucci was recognized for receiving the Milken Family Foundation Award for teacher of the year last month.

The girls Varsity Tennis team was also recognized for their undefeated 11-0 season  this past fall when they were crowned Super Essex County conference champions.

The West Orange High School marching band received recognition as well for their results in the competitions that they competed in this past fall. They earned five first place finishes and two second place finishes in the competitions that they entered in 2011.

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