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White Plains' Highlands Hosts Sixth-Grade Parents

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Suchitre Muger shuffled through her son's daily schedule and met her son's teachers alongside hundreds of other White Plains parents at Highlands Middle School's sixth grade open house Wednesday evening.

"I want to know everything about school," said Muger, whose son's enrollment at Highlands prompted her to attend her first middle school open house. "It's been so far so good."

Michele Davila, a music teacher at Highlands, said open house nights have always been popular.

"It's especially big with the sixth grade parents because it's a new building and it's a big building," said Davila, an Ossining resident who has taught at Highlands for 12 years.

Several parents, including Lilly Gerstner, 51, arrived an hour early to learn how to interpret White Plains' scores on state standardized tests at a "data night" tutorial given by Highlands Principal Jonathan Brown.

The briefing on the English Language Arts and math standardized tests caught the attention of Eastview Middle School parents as well, including Susan Hessney, whose daughter is in eighth grade.

"I was very pleased that they had a meeting like this," said Hessney, who works for McGraw-Hill Publishing. "The main thing I took away is this is not the measure by which all decisions are made and we need to reinforce that our child isn't defined by a test."

Rhonda Herman, whose daughter is also an eighth grader at Eastview, said she was surprised that every grade's standardized tests feature a different number of questions of different point values, making it impossible to compare scores on math and ELA tests from one year to the next.

"I was sitting down with my daughter saying, 'Why is your score 200 points lower.' Actually, it probably wasn't," said Herman, who works for the Treasury Department.

Both Eastview parents said they'd like to hear more from the New York State Department of Education, particularly about how the department decides what percentage of questions must be answered correctly for a student to be deemed proficient.

"Getting it right 59 percent of the time, that's not good enough," Herman said of the 59 percent proficiency cut off on last year's fifth grade math test. "I'd be scared if that person was my pharmacist."

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