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JFK parent group speaks to school board

'It's time for us to say to you we're done'

SPRING VALLEY — A group of JFK parents have banded together after sharing the same concerns about their students academic achievements at the junior high level.

The group, which goes by JFK Parent Committee, shared their concerns with the school board Wednesday evening.

Jennifer Plym, a teacher at LaSalle-Peru High School and parent of a fifth-grader at JFK, spoke for the group.

She explained they began meeting to discuss their concerns and were able to identify three areas where they feel JFK needs improvement — communication, technology and curriculum. Since they’ve started meeting, Plym explained that parents have seen improvements in communication at the school, but they still have deep concerns about technology and curriculum.

Their biggest concern is that junior high students are not prepared enough to make the transition into high school, and perhaps that could be a reason behind Hall High School’s low test scores.

“There’s a big transition between eighth grade and high school, so if the students are not academically prepared when they get to high school, that’s another hurdle they’re trying to overcome,” Plym said.

The parents presented data they collected on JFK’s ISAT test scores from 2009-13, and the students’ high school readiness test scores from 2007-14. The ISAT test scores show a decrease in students meeting or exceeding standards. On the high school readiness test, scores fluctuate, but scores in Math consistently decrease.

“Our kids are not prepared for math by the time they get to Hall,” Plym pointed out. “Algebra is hard for kids coming into high school. So if our kids are already behind the grade level standards and then we get them into Hall, it’s no wonder why Hall’s test scores are where they are because we are not sending them there prepared.”

Plym said JFK’s administration has pointed out its increasing low income rate as being a large contributor to the low performance on formal assessments. However, the parents’ data, highlighted that only 44 percent of low income students meet or exceed in reading, compared to 64 non-low income students who meet or exceed in reading. Also 33 percent of low income students met or exceeded in math compared to the 51 percent of non-low income students who meet or exceed in math.

“So it’s not just low income percentages of kids that are struggling. It’s all students struggling across the board,” Plym said.

The parent committee provided the school board with suggestions they feel needs to be considered to help point students in the right direction.

“It’s time for us to say to you we’re done; we can’t continue to wait for our kids to catch up. We need to use the data we have and make some good, really hard data driven decisions to change what’s been going on,” she said.

Following Plym’s presentation, school board President Ray Nolasco spoke for the board when he said the district is currently implementing an educational plan. He said the district also hired Director of Curriculum Shelly Nauman this year to assist with the plan.

“We do monitor student progress and continue to implement an educational plan for all students with the help of the Director of Curriculum to ensure our kids receive quality education,” he said. “The curriculum plan is ongoing, will continue and modifications to the planning will be made if necessary.”

Later on in the meeting, during Nauman’s monthly report, she discussed some points in her plan that she will be implementing next year to further improve teachers’ curriculum. It was also mentioned that she has been in touch with the director of curriculum at Hall High School, and they are working together on planning for teachers and students.

Superintendent Jim Hermes said the district uses the advice of the Regional Office of Education, who has reported to JFK that they are on the right track with students. Also he pointed out the training that teachers have completed, especially in math.

“We want to make sure we train our staff,” he said. “And it’s our goal to get parents involved and here to listen to what we’re doing.”

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