Lyndhurst School Board Reveals Gains in Test Scores, Disparities in Special Education Population

In a wide-ranging meeting, the Lyndhurst School Board reported significant gains in 11th-grade test scores, identified performance disparities among student subgroups, and introduced new district goals focusing on mental health. The meeting also delved into the ongoing professional development for teachers, the improvement of curriculum for special education students, and the expansion of resources for the district’s growing multilingual student population.

Superintendent Joseph A. DeCorso announced improvements in the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA) test scores for 11th graders. The district notably outperformed state averages in English Language Arts (ELA), and revealed meaningful gains from Spring 2022 to Spring 2023, particularly in ELA where scores nearly doubled.

However, Dr. Morel, the assistant superintendent, shared subgroup data that exposed a notable performance gap among special education students, a topic that drew significant board discussion. Specifically, there was a discernible disparity in how special education students fared in the ELA section, in comparison to other demographic categories.

Board members Domenick Abbate Jr., Paul Passamano, and Erin Keefe expressed concerns about the underperformance of special education students and discussed strategies to close the gap.

On a high note, the board honored Sabrina Leoni and Lisa Klein for their role in the improvements in math and ELA scores, respectively. The district is implementing strategies based on the lessons learned from their work, zeroing in on areas such as “modeling and reasoning,” which were identified as needing the most attention.

Besides academic performance, mental health took center stage. New district goals revolving around mental health awareness were unveiled, a move that aligns with an increasing national focus on the mental well-being of students in the wake of the pandemic and other social stressors.

The board also spotlighted the district’s multilingual learners, announcing a rise in numbers especially in grades K-2. To accommodate this, an additional teacher was hired and a new program, “Bus Lectura,” was purchased for students whose first language is Spanish. The district is also working on a multi-year plan that will include “Sheltered English Instruction” strategies for general education teachers to support these learners.

Another issue raised was the availability of a high-impact tutoring grant that could funnel as much as $154,000 into the district, focusing on third and fourth grades. Dr. Morel mentioned the district’s intention to apply for the full amount, funded by the state from a pool of over $50 million.

Although significant, not all matters were rosy. A potential paving project at Jefferson School was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances involving a fallen tree and drainage issues. The district also revealed that a grant for window replacements had been paused to explore state subsidy possibilities.

In terms of board governance, conflicts of interest emerged as a noteworthy topic. Multiple board members had to abstain from voting on specific financial resolutions due to potential conflicts, mostly related to family or work. While this led to separate motions and votes, most resolutions still passed unanimously among present members.

The meeting culminated in a change in the next board meeting date, moved from September 26 to September 28, and the congratulation of Alyssa Aquino for her new role as the director of elementary education.

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