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SD 26 students outshine others in 3rd-grade tests

District 26, the highest-ranked in the city, also made gains on its eighth-grade state reading results, although fourth grade state reading results declined slightly.

The district had the borough's lowest percentage of third-grade students failing the test at less than 1 percent. Citywide, the Department of Education estimated that 11,700 third-graders had failed at least one of the tests.

Third-graders who fail by scoring a Level 1 out of a possible Level 4 on these tests may be held back under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein's social promotion policy, which seeks to hold back students deemed unprepared for the next grade.

Under the policy, students who failed the third-grade tests can attend summer school and retake the exams in order to advance to the fourth grade.

This year District 26 also had a decline in the percentage of students failing the state reading exams for fourth- and eighth-graders. Many schools in the district also showed an increase in the percentage of eighth-grade students scoring above average.

"As always, we do very, very well on these tests," said Danny Feldman, the district's representative in the United Federation of Teachers. "We have great teachers and good students, all of the things that make it right."

At the fourth-grade level, the average percentage of students failing the state reading test was less than 1 percent, with most schools showing a decrease from last year in percentage of students failing. In fact, 12 of the district's 21 primary schools showed that no students failed the test.

The school with the highest rate of failing students, PS 133 in Bellerose with 5.9 percent, still showed a decrease from last year's 7.2 percent of fourth-graders failing. Results showed that statewide, fourth-grade test scores had dropped by nearly three points.

This year every District 26 primary school had at least 63 percent of its fourth-graders score above average or better.

However, the number of high-scoring fourth-graders declined from last year. The average percentage of students scoring above average or better in 2003 was 86.6 percent, while in 2004 it was 84.2 percent.

On a statewide basis eighth-grade reading scores improved by nearly three points, and five of the six middle schools in District 26 showed decreases in percentage of students failing the test.

At JHS 158 in Bayside, the only school to increase its percentage of failing students and also the school with the most failing students in the district, 2.7 percent of eighth-graders failed the test, up from last year's 2.2 percent.

The average percentage of failing eighth-graders fell from 2.7 percent in 2003 to 1.4 percent this year, and the average percentage of students who scored above average or better rose from 65 percent in 2003 to 68 percent this year.

"We were very happy to see that our scores went up. It doesn't come as a surprise to us that our children seem to improve every year," said David Pinzon, head of the district's PTA President's Council. "We have teachers who work hard and believe in our children, our children who know a lot is expected of them, and parents who are very involved and expect a lot from the teachers and the students. We have those three legs of the educational system working so well together."

Pinzon said that the District 26 schools actually receive less funding than many other schools because it does not qualify for federal Title I funds that help poorly performing schools.

"We've always been looked at in a jealous way because we always do well with less money," he said. "Unfortunately, when we go to some citywide meetings, we're always considered the affluent district."

He noted that more than a third of the district's school-aged population were recent immigrants. "It's not because we're an affluent, white district. It's because we have a winning formula with teachers, parents, and children."

Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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