Board offering course to boost math scores


By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

MONMOUTH BEACH — To help students pass the math portion of the state-mandated Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment test (GEPA) this year, the Monmouth Beach School is offering a six-week cram course outside of regular classroom studies.

The course is intended to boost the performance of this year’s eighth-graders because too few of last year’s class scored a passing grade on the math section of the test. Only 62.1 percent of last year’s eighth-graders were found to be proficient or advanced proficient in math on the test, whereas the state requires that a minimum of 75 percent fall into those categories.

Because the school was monitored for certification this year, it received only conditional certification which expires June 30.

At the end of the school year, the county superintendent of schools will re-evaluate the school’s math standing and make a recommendation to the state commissioner of education regarding its certification. If certification isn’t granted, the district could be given an extended amount of time to correct deficiencies or be placed in Level II monitoring.

School Superintendent Neil Frankenfield told the Board of Education at its meeting on Jan. 16 that the course, consisting of 24 sessions with four sessions a week, would be offered after school during the six weeks leading up to the GEPA test, which is given in March. He said he would send letters to parents urging them to have their children attend the courses.

He will suggest the students attend at least two sessions a week, he said.

However, during the meeting, board members suggested that rather than have one-hour sessions after school, the course should be broken up into half an hour in the morning before school and half an hour after school.

Frankenfield said he would consider that alternative.

He said the cram course would be taught by two teachers, and the board approved $1,200 to pay them. Each teacher will be paid $25 an hour for the 24 hours, or a total of $600 apiece.

Frankenfield said the course would teach general math skills and test-taking skills. Susan Howard, the board president, noted that all of last year’s eighth-graders passed the algebra section, which is what the classroom instruction is geared toward. When asked where the students were weak, Frankenfield said "in the basics — square roots, multiplication." He said because of the focus on algebra, the students had been missing some other math skills.

Frankenfield said those shortcomings would be addressed in the course and, in addition, students would be taught how to take the test and judge their time.

"We don’t want to change the focus from algebra," he added.

"It is discouraging," he said about last year’s results. "We did well last year and the year before that. It’s the same program, the same teachers. Hopefully, it’s only a blip on the radar screen."

Board member Joan Delehanty observed that third- and fourth-graders were shown to have a problem in math in the Iowa tests given to them.

Frankenfield responded that the school was looking to add extra GEPA and ESPA (Elementary School Proficiency Assessment, the state-mandated test for fourth-graders) enrichment activities beginning in third grade.

He said it also is researching new materials for the sixth and seventh grades.

"It isn’t just the eighth grade. We have to start earlier," he said.

Frankenfield said, "It seems to be cool" for students to stay after school for sports and other extracurricular activities, but he wasn’t sure about the cram course.

Howard said some students may be reluctant because of a perceived stigma attached to the classes, or may not come because their parents don’t know the help is available. Also, she said, some parents have tutors for their children and may choose not to have them participate in the cram course.

Frankenfield noted that students from the county’s career academies and Shore Regional High School come to the school on Wednesdays and Thursdays to help students with their homework, but it’s hard to get the students to attend.

In discussing how to get the students to partake of the cram course, Delehanty said, not entirely in jest, "Food always works."

Board member Barbara Giacchi said, "They have to want to do better for themselves."

Frankenfield said that while the eighth-graders last year did poorly on the math portion of the GEPA test, 100 percent of them were found to be proficient or advanced proficient in language arts, and 93.1 percent were proficient in science, earning a commendation from the state in both those categories.

"We realize there’s a problem," he said about the math situation. "Unfortunately, it comes in the one year of monitoring" which the state does every few years.

Board member Cheryl Britton said students from the school attend a cross-section of high schools in the area and are doing well.

Frankenfield said he was talking to school officials in other elementary school districts, at Shore Regional High School and at the other high schools the students attend.

On other matters, the board discussed permitting only one-way traffic on Griffin Street and Hastings Place from 8-8:30 a.m. and from 2:45-3:15 p.m. on school days.

Board member Jay Maney suggested writing a letter to the Board of Commissioners asking for a committee of the school board to talk to them about the traffic pattern and parking.

Frankenfield, however, asked the board to leave it to him to approach them.

Frankenfield also reminded residents that the deadline to return school surveys has been extended to Jan. 31. He said he would hold his next coffee hour for residents on Jan. 27.

The board’s finance committee was to meet to discuss the budget on Wednesday of this week.

Asked if an increase in the tax rate for the school budget was expected, Howard said the board doesn’t know because it doesn’t have the state aid figures yet.

Frankenfield added, "I also have my wish list."