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A series of disappointing test scores, along with new requirements from the state Education Department, prompted the Depew School Board on Thursday to approve a new math program.

The board's unanimous vote for the Scott-Foresman math series for grades kindergarten through 6 came after administrators made a detailed presentation highlighting test scores throughout the district.

"New York State has established key areas for improvement in mathematics," said James Austin, the district's math department chairman. Austin said the state also requires four assessments at different grade levels: elementary, intermediate, Math A and Math B.

While Math B is intended for students who opt for an Advanced Regents diploma, all high school students must pass the Math A requirement to graduate.

"Math is math," Austin said in describing the state's new requirements. "The approach is different, but the content isn't different."

George Morse, the district's principal of curriculum, presented the board some disheartening numbers that have shown only very modest improvement.

In 1999, test scores in math for Depew fourth-graders ranked 26th out of 28 Erie County school districts, improving to 23rd in 2000. The results for eighth-graders were not much better: 1999 test scores ranked Depew 21st, though scores for 2000 raised the district ranking to 19th.

Of greater concern, however, were the first-year results for high school students. A total of 93 freshmen, or 43 percent, failed Course 100, the first-year class leading to the required Math A.

"Our results this June were bad," Morse acknowledged. "We're struggling."

While citing several reasons for the low scores, Morse said late-arriving test results from the middle school were a large part of the problem.

"It's on the basis of the eighth-grade scores that we're supposed to identify students who need academic intervention," Morse said. "It's very hard in November to change a high school kid's schedule."

Morse and other district officials said they are confident that the new Scott-Foresman math curriculum will raise test scores, pointing out the success other school systems have had with the program.

The School Board agreed, and, after examining several new textbooks, approved the program in a unanimous vote.

The board also voted to approve the districtwide Safety Plan and Code of Conduct that was first discussed at the board's June 8 meeting, and it tabled the proposed teacher mentoring program for further talks.

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