A successful student has positive self-esteem, a lifelong love of learning, goals and community awareness as well as basic skills in reading, writing and math.

By the time he or she graduates from high school, the student should have experience working as part of a team, solid communication and life skills and basic skills in a second language.

These are among the signs of success in education that were developed at Astoria community meetings over the past few months.

About 40 parents, teachers, administrators and others gathered again Tuesday to review ideas of success gathered so far and to discuss ways to measure them at the third in a series of "community engagement" meetings led by the Astoria School District.

The meetings, initiated by the district's Schooling Improvement Team, aimed to build a "collaborative constituency for change and improvement" of Astoria K-12 schools, professional facilitator and former educator Kathy Leslie said.

Many people at Tuesday's meeting agreed that test scores, while necessary, aren't the best way to measure success.

"We know that test scores are a fact of life," said Marilyn Lane, who is in transition from her job as Capt. Robert Gray Elementary School principal and district director of curriculum and instructional services to director of special programs and instructional services. "But we also know that we provide a much richer environment for our children that gets represented by that."

Rather than depending on test scores, ways to measure student success discussed Tuesday at the Liberty Theater included:

• Attendance, dropout and graduation rates;

• Grade-point averages or student grades in "core subject areas;"

• Hours contributed to community service;

• Level of school-community interaction and connections;

• Percentages of students participating in extracurricular activities;

• Percentages of students who go on to two-year or four-year colleges or who have post-high school plans;

• Proportions of students showing "desirable behavior," such as hard work, teamwork and persistence;

• Scores on scholastic aptitude and college-entrance exams;

• Special awards to or accomplishments of students;

• Student portfolios.

Some people had attended one or two previous meetings. At the first gathering, participants received a snapshot of the district, illustrated by facts and figures. They examined key questions about student success with those statistics in mind at a second meeting in February.

Additional ideas of student success were generated at a separate meeting involving Hispanic students and community members.

Those participants felt success meant that students were dedicated, confident to express opinions and able to see their progress. They felt that consistency in teaching, encouragement from parents and regular attendance were necessary to reach those goals.

Hispanic participants also thought that "notices should go home in Spanish at all grade levels," "counselors should speak Spanish" and "teachers need to give each student the chance to speak in class."

Linda Ho, an English Language Learners assistant at Astoria High School, said one student was concerned that he wasn't being called on in class, even when his hand was raised and he knew the information.

In addition, graduation appeared more important as an indicator of student success to Latino students, although for those taking classes in a second language, "it's hard to obtain," Ho said.

That information will be added to the results of the three other meetings, said Lane.

Several participants at Tuesday's meeting voiced concern over when and how the information gathered would be used.

"A lot of the same things keep getting said," noted Debbie Twombly, a third-grade teacher at John Jacob Astor Elementary School. "And until we get stable funding for the schools, it's going to be hard to see any changes."

"Community engagement is not a one-time thing," Lane said. "We want you to rethink and reinvent our public schools," a process that first requires common values and a common vision. She said the information will be given to the Astoria School Board, possibly at its June meeting.


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