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Riverhead Central School District scored near the bottom of the 50 school districts in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES system on the 2019 state assessment tests, according to data released yesterday by the N.Y. State Education Department.

The assessment tests were given statewide this spring to students in grades 3 to 8 to measure proficiency in English language arts and mathematics.

Twenty-two percent of Riverhead students who took the test scored at levels deemed proficient in English language arts and 23% scored at levels deemed proficient in mathematics. (See district results.)

In contrast, 68% of Riverhead Charter School students who were tested scored at proficient levels in English and 62 percent at proficient levels in math. (See charter school results.) Those scores rank near the top of school districts in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES system on the assessment tests, such as the Hauppauge, Three Village and Port Jefferson school districts. Student scores at the charter school increased on both ELA and math tests compared to last year.

Statewide school districts averaged proficiency levels of 45% in English language arts and 47% in mathematics. Average proficiency scores across Suffolk County were 42% in ELA and 44% in math. (See countywide results.) The education department did not provide averages for BOCES systems.

Riverhead schools superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez did not respond to a request for comment today.

Riverhead Charter School elementary principal Laura Arcuri and middle school principal Patrick McKinney said in a phone interview today they are very pleased with the test results.

McKinney credited the culture the charter school has created with students and parents. It’s very personalized, he said.

“We make sure students master skills before moving on,” McKinney said. “When we see students are not making progress, it’s all hands on deck.”

That means students, administrators, coaches and parents focus on students in need of assistance, he said.

“We have a lot of programs and structures in place to support the students and parents,” he said. “And our culture promotes a love of learning.”

Arcuri said the school ensures teachers have common “planning blocks” — blocks of time in their schedule when they can review and plan lessons together. It makes a big difference, she said.

Charter school administrators build their schedules around classrooms and being in the common planning meeting, McKinney added. So it’s an across-the-board effort, which he said he believes makes the difference.

The assessment tests have critics, including the statewide teachers union, New York State United Teachers, which called the assessment tests “badly broken.”

“Too many students are forced to take tests that are too long and include questions that are not developmentally appropriate,” NYSUT said in a press release. “Invalid scoring benchmarks continue to mislabel children. And the rush to adopt computer-based testing has been a complete failure for the second year in a row,” the union said.

Riverhead schools, across the board, failed to meet proficiency standards this year. Most scored lower than in 2018.

Riverhead Middle School students (grades seven and eight) scored 16% proficient in ELA and 17% proficient in math. Fifty-four percent of middle school students scored at level one on the ELA test. (See middle school results.)

Level one is “well below” proficient for their grade. These students “demonstrate limited knowledge, skills, and practices,” according to New York State Common Core Learning Standards — considered insufficient for expectations at their grade. Fifty-six percent of middle school students scored at level one on the mathematics test.

Pulaski Street Elementary School students (grades five and six) scored 18% proficient in ELA and 23% proficient in math. Fifty-five percent of those tested were at level one in ELA and 50% were at level one in math. (See Pulaski Street results.)

In the district’s K-4 schools, scores were mostly below state and county averages.

Students at Aquebogue Elementary School topped the district’s four primary schools. They tested 45% proficient in English language arts and 40% proficient in math, slight increases from test results in 2018. (See Aquebogue results.)

Students at Phillips Avenue, Roanoke Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools did not fare as well on the state tests.

At Riley Avenue Elementary School, 37% of students were proficient at English language arts and 32% were proficient in math. (See Riley Avenue results.)

At Roanoke Avenue Elementary School 24% of students were proficient at English language arts, while 14% were proficient at mathematics. (See Roanoke Avenue results.)

Twenty percent of Phillips Avenue Elementary School students were proficient at English language arts, while just 14% of students there were proficient at mathematics, according to state test data. (See Phillips Avenue results.)

Overall, 26.5% of testing-eligible students in the Riverhead school district refused to take the state tests. Many districts had much higher refusal rates. See chart of NYSED-provided refusal data for Suffolk County school districts here.

2019 NYS Assessment Tests G… by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 24 to include links to the test results on the NYSED data website, as well as information about test refusals and a chart of ESBOCES districts’ percent proficient among students who took the tests.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.