Results for state tests students took in April have been released, and they generally show improvement - especially in Keene and Saranac Lake - in the second year of the state's transition to Common Core.
The tests are given to students in grades 3 through 8. The English language arts and math assessments are scored based on a scale of 1 to 4, with scores of 3 and 4 being considered proficient.
Those who score 1 or 2 are said to need improvement, and for the most part, 70 to 80 percent of local students fell into that category.
Saranac Lake Central School District's English and math test scores both increased: 11 percentage points in math and 4 in English. Superintendent Diane Fox said the district can do better, but she recognized the improvement.
"I certainly can't celebrate that," Fox said of the scores showing two-thirds of the students being not proficient. "At the same time, there was work involved to get there."
Fox said the district has made a commitment to its K-5 math program the past couple of years, and the extra effort appears to have paid off.
"Teachers who have been working with it feel that it has made a real difference in our students' math abilities," Fox said. "Our hope is, as time goes on and we see those kids rise through the grades, we'll see our scores rise."
Fox said there has been a "real commitment" from the teachers to teach the curriculum as intended.
"They're trying to make sure they're completing the program throughout the year and working on the individual parts," she said.
Moving forward, Fox said student engagement will be a major priority.
The Lake Placid Central School District had a slight drop in English scores, down 3 percent from last year, and held steady in math.
Superintendent Roger Catania said the district has fallen into similar trends that are affecting school districts in the state.
"What you're seeing is not unlike what you're seeing statewide," Catania said.
Several students, 21 of the eighth-graders in total, did not take the Common Core math test. This lowered the district's score, Catania said. Instead the students took an algebra test.
"The scores of 21 accelerated math students were not counted in that," he said.
Catania said he is concerned about the scores dropping in the English assessment, but the context of the testing can't be overlooked.
"I just don't think you can overlook the context of these particular exams and these particular years that are so controversial, and seeing the rules change as they go," he said.
The Tupper Lake Central School District's test scores increased 7 percent in math and stayed flat in English.
"We're happy that we've shown improvements," Superintendent Seth McGowan said. "We feel like we've been sinking and sinking each year, and this is the first year we've shown improvement. So I feel like we're out of a downward trajectory."
The district has spent a lot of time working on the Common Core math program, which was the cause for the bump in scores, but the district still needs to improve, McGowan said.
The focus for the district will be research-based instruction and ensuring teachers diagnose and understand each small mistake, he said.
Keene and Long Lake
The area's smallest school districts posted the highest percentages of students with 3s and 4s. Both Keene's math and English scores rocketed past 50 percent proficiency, with math shooting up 24 points to 61 percent and English rising 8 points to 56.
Long Lake's percentages dropped from 2013, 7 points in English and 1 in math, but still were stronger than any of the larger Tri-Lakes' districts.
Managing Editor Peter Crowley contributed to this report.
By the #s
Test scores for local school districts
Percentage of students tested in April 2014 who scored 3 or 4, indicating proficiency, as opposed to 1 or 2, with comparisons to 2013 scores
|English language arts||32, up from 28|
|Math||32, up from 21|
|ELA||21, same as last year|
|Math||20, up from 13|
|ELA||28, down from 31|
|Math||25, same as last year|
|ELA||20, down from 22|
|Math||30, up from 21|
|ELA||56, up from 48|
|Math||61, up from 37|
|ELA||43, down from 50|
|Math||32, down from 33|