Garwood BOE Hears Audit Presentation, Assessment Results

By JULIA BONAVITACOLA
For Union County HAWK

GARWOOD – At the board of education meeting held on Tuesday, members of the board were given presentations on the 2020-2021 fiscal audit as well as results of the Start Strong assessment.

The 2020-2021 audit was presented by Steven McDermott. He said that the final reports are still delayed due to the state government having to release some final statistics. Once these come in, they will be added to the final audit for Garwood.

Mr. McDermott went over the findings and recommendations of the audit during his presentation. “We have two, which is down significantly from the previous year,” he said. The previous fiscal report had 10 findings and recommendations.

One of the findings was that there were instances where only an hourly rate was approved under some professional service contracts but there was no mention of a maximum amount related in the minutes. The recommendation is to make sure that all contracts are awarded a specific total that is mentioned in the minutes.

The second finding was that the food service fund balance revealed that the net cash resources exceeded three months average expenditures. The recommendation was that the district should review procedures to make sure that this did not happen in the future to keep in line with federal regulations.

The fiscal report cannot be approved until it becomes final. Mr. McDermott said that he hopes that it becomes final at the end of this month.

Theresa Parkhill, the school counselor at Lincoln School, then gave a presentation on the Start Strong assessment. This information was from Fall of 2021.

According to the presentation, the Start Strong assessment is used as a standards-based complement to the resources used in classrooms. The assessments are meant to evaluate the needs of students in the class. They do not replace the standardized assessments already in place in the district and will not replace the spring New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA).

Ms. Parkhill said that this assessment satisfies the federal requirement to assess the students and their progress in school. She also said that the results were immediate. “Once the students took the test, within 24 hours we could go in and see how they did,” she said. In the “ELA (English Language Arts) test there were 10 questions and for math there were only 20 questions. So it was a very brief assessment.”

Ms. Parkhill said that some considerations of the test results are the impacts of Covid-19 on learning and testing conditions. As the assessment was only in person, some students could not take the whole test or parts of the test.

The test results could also be used as a data point for teachers to talk to parents about where their child needs more help or support at the beginning of the school year. It can also be used to plan and revisit prerequisite concepts and skills in the curriculum.

According to the presentation, the results of the assessment were split into three categories: more support needed, some support needed, and less support needed in a particular subject. The chart showed the number of students in each category as well as the percentage of students.

The percentage of students in the “more support needed” category for ELA ranged from 14 to 23 percent and 23 to 39 percent for math. Only the sixth grade was below 60 percent of children needing less support in ELA. The fifth and seventh grades had 20 and 21 percent of their students needing less support in math while the other three grades were above 40 percent in this category.

“To note, when they took this assessment, the questions were based on what they would have learned last year. But what we found when they took the math assessment, a lot of the teachers noticed that the standards presented were actually aligned with the grade for this year,” said Ms. Parkhill. “So we should keep that in mind when we’re looking at the results here.”

According to the presentation, the percentage of students in “some support” and “less support” is higher than the state average in ELA, with 62 percent of Lincoln School students testing in the highest ELA level. The percentage of students in the “more support” category in math was less than the state average in every grade except for seventh, whose percentage was about equal to the state average.

The next board of education meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 15 in the Lincoln School cafeteria. The meeting will also be live-streamed on the front page of the Garwood school district homepage.

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