Reinstate a Bus for NJ ASK tutoring at Pleasantdale
To Members of the West Orange Board of Education:
RE: NJASK Tutoring Buses
Our ultimate goal is to receive the tutoring services for those students who need it and that the tutoring should be provided equitably to all students across the district, i.e., that all students have the same experience and opportunity. The parents at Pleasantdale are concerned and dismayed by the low test results at our school. Here are the three critical facts:Pleasantdale Elementary’s 2012-2013 NJ ASK test scores ranked lowest in the district. The No. 3 District Goal for the 2013-2014 academic year is to “improve student performance in Advanced Proficiency in the NJ ASK and HSPA and increase scores on standardized tests SAT, ACT, and advance placement tests.” The district had previously provided buses for the NJASK tutoring prep program since its inception for Pleasantdale.
Given these facts, we respectfully request a bus for NJ ASK tutoring be reinstated for Pleasantdale Elementary.
The majority of our students qualifying for NJASK tutoring also require buses to get to the tutoring sessions. To better understand the needs of these students that are bused to Pleasantdale, you can look at the link below to see a “Map of Children Living below the Poverty Line in West Orange.”
As you can see, our bused students live between 13 to 50 percent below the poverty line, and 37 percent of students at Pleasantdale are on the free or reduced lunch program. (Majority if not all of these students on reduced lunch are bused.) Our students who live below the poverty line are dealing with many issues that make it difficult to attend the morning tutoring sessions. The highest among them is a lack of personal transportation to attend tutoring.
Now let’s look at the numbers for our NJ ASK Prep program at Pleasantdale: Seventy-three participation letters went home to students last year. Sixty students accepted. Forty-one students were driven by their parents and attended the morning tutoring sessions. Eleven students were bused to the after-school tutoring program at Washington and eight students had test prep during the school day. (Usually during the students recess time.) We can only assume that a portion of the students who did not sign up did so due to the lack of transportation. Given the continued low test scores, we do not feel the solution implemented by the district last year was adequate because:
1.) Our students do not know the teachers at Washington School and the teachers do not know the needs of these particular students.
2.) The majority of our students that attended the Washington School tutoring were forced to walk home alone, which created a safety issue sincethere were no crossing guards at that time of day.
3.) Taking away a student’s recess time, the only down time where they are able to run around outside and decompress is detrimental to the student’s capacity to learn throughout the remainder of the afternoon.
Furthermore, buses are budgeted for and approved for our high school student’s for sports and extracurricular activities, so why is it that the same cannot be done for tutoring sessions that will improve the academics of our elementary students? We will accept having the NJ ASK tutoring program take place afterschool if it would mean that our students could take one of the late buses from the high school.
At the Council of Parent Teachers meeting on November 18, 2013, Laura Lab stated that the test scores for the district’s elementary schools have improved significantly. However, she forgot to mention that all the schools improved except for Pleasantdale. Our scores have gone down or remained stagnant depending on the grade.
We would like to see this remedied with the 2014 NJ ASK tests, however, the parents of Pleasantdale are at a loss as to why the district and the Board of Education would discriminate against our students with the least means to achieve high scores on the NJ ASK. If achieving higher test score on the NJ ASK and HSPA exams are truly a priority, why then, would the district not do everything in its power to ensure academic success by helping all students in the district by providing busing to these critical tutoring sessions? As tax payers in West Orange, with 68 percent of our taxes going to the education of our students, we want to understand why the WOBOE cannot supply the buses needed for tutoring. Additionally, if you are not going to provide buses for the tutoring sessions, we demand to know the plan for helping Pleasantdale achieve higher test scores on the 2014 NJ ASK.