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Elmsford School Superintendent Regrets Low Scores

ELMSFORD, N.Y. -- Late Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Barbara A. Peters was sitting in her office at the second floor of Alexander Hamilton High School, in Elmsford. Her elbows resting on the table, she looked down in dismay to a sheet of paper that listed this year’s tests scores for Elmsford Free Union School District.

“I am really sad the scores are low right now,” said Peters, who is in her fourth year as the village’s superintendent of schools.

The New York State Education Department released last week the results of the math and English Language Arts tests that students in grades three to eight took in last May. Considering the percentages of students that achieved proficiency level or better, Elmsford’s 49.8 average in English and 55.1 in math fell below the state’s average, with 52.8 and 63.3 percent, respectively.

Although the scores showed a slight improvement when compared with last year’s 48.2 percent in English and 52.9 percent in Math, they are still far from what Peters dreamed with when she came from Buffalo in 2008.

“My mantra is to go four,” she said, referring to level 4, the highest proficiency level.

Peters, who was born in Lockport, N.Y., has a Master’s degree from the University of Wales, in the United Kingdom, and a doctorate in Education from the University of Buffalo. She said she had worked in two school districts in the city before she accepted an invitation to move to Elmsford, partially out of the desire to live closer to the youngest of her four children, who at the time worked in New York City.

But she said she also identified with the district’s objectives, in particular the adoption of a system to improve teaching and learning.

“It was my expertise,” she said.

Almost four years down the road, she said the district is much different than when she arrived. She mentioned a significant increase in the attendance as one of her main achievements, as well as more elective and advanced courses.

But Peters also talked frankly about her frustrations with the test scores.

“I am somewhat disappointed that I was not able to make fast progress in improving academic achievements,” she said.

Yet she said she is confident the district can still get there, betting on the quality of her staff, the long-term success of her strategic plan, and on the hiring of an assistant superintendent to work on curriculum.

“I don’t want to leave anyone behind,” she said.

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