West Orange Board of Education Meeting Highlights Middle School Schedule Changes and School Performance Reports

West Orange Board of Education in discussion. Credits: Chris Harewood

WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange Board of Education meeting on Monday featured an overview of the state's school performance report and an update on the Middle School schedule change that took place last September.

Liberty Middle School Principal Bob Klemt joined Roosevelt Middle School Principal Lionel Hush to discuss how the Middle School Schedule change has been impacting both schools. Overall, both agreed that the change from nine periods of 46 minutes to seven periods of 55 minutes has been relatively seamless. Klemt said that polls taken by both students and staff show that it has been a success. 

According to Klemt, there are two primary improvements the new schedule has provided. One is the additional time allotted to students and teachers to expand upon core curriculum. The other is an opportunity to have common team planning. This allows for supervisors to come in weekly, sit with staff, and provide guidance, review materials, and assemble tools such as study guides to help students.

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Principal Hush added that the World Language Program has also benefitted from the new schedule. Students with special needs now have the opportunity to take languages. Fail safes have been incorporated into the program in case the curriculum proves to be too difficult for those students, but it has not yet been the case. The news was in direct response to a complaint filed last year with concerns about the language program. 

Polls administered by Principal Hush show that the change is being well received by students, staff, and parents. "Nine [extra] minutes doesn't sound like a lot, but it is," he said. Hush also said that teachers he has spoken with have said they would not switch back to old schedule if given the option. In fact, math teachers would like to have even more time added.

Principal Hush noted that he'd seen more Roosevelt Middle School students reading since the schedule change. 

A more formal assessment of the schedule change will take place sometime in April. 

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Donna Rando then reviewed The New Jersey State Department of Education's School Performance Report that focused on the academic achievement, student growth, and college/career readiness of schools for the 2012-2013 school year. 

Improved student performance in the area of advanced proficiency was a district goal, and according to Rando, there “has been a tremendous growth at the elementary level.” Students involved in an advanced proficiency program in math ranged from 30 percent to 70 percent in schools. 

Washington Elementary School had 95 percent of its student pass the Science Proficiency in grade 4 with over 30 percent in advanced proficiency programs. Pleasantdale Elementary school had 87 percent in advanced proficiency in science. 

Hazel Elementary School was reported to have reached the 93rd percentile amongst peers, which Dr. Rando called “an academic achievement.” 

Edison Central Six was a school of focus, and a plan put into place with the help of the Regional Achievement Center in Essex County led to 'marked improvement.' “In terms of academic achievement among peers, they are in the 69th percentile. Last year, they were at the 29th percentile,” Dr. Rando said.

37 percent of the students have been put in advanced proficiency programs. Edison has met all of its targets in math, as well as four out of seven targets in language arts. Absentee percentages at West Orange High School have decreased from 7 percent to 4 percent. Research shows attendance rates in high school were 'an indicator of high school graduation.'

Liberty and Roosevelt Middle Schools were reported to have met all of their statewide targets in growth in English, language arts and mathematics. The college and career readiness aspect of the reports look at students who take Algebra 1. The state standard is at 20 percent, and while both schools are below that, it is because of a technicality that does not acknowledge Geometry – a more advanced class than Algebra 1 – as part of the report.  If it was recognized, both middle schools would have been well over the state standard with Roosevelt at 31 percent and Liberty at 27 percent.

In West Orange High School news, the state requires at least 47 percent of students to be involved in visual or performance arts in each school. West Orange High School has far exceeded that with a percentage of 64 percent. 

Over the last four years, 700 AP (Advanced Placement) exams were administered at West Orange High School, but new rules show the state only recognizes tests taken by unique students, or “students in the 11th or 12th grade who are counted only once regardless of the number of exams taken.”  Because of this, the number of AP exams recognized has decreased. Only English, Social Studies, Science, and Math AP exams are accounted for in reports.

Weather and the implications it may have on school days moving forward were briefly highlighted during the meeting. “Any more snow days may impact spring break,” Interim Superintendent James O’Neill said. 

Along with praise for the academic improvement of athletes, the bowling, wrestling, and boy’s track team were highlighted for strong performances in their respective sports. 

The next public Board of Education meeting is scheduled for February 24 at 8:00 p.m. at West Orange High School. 



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