Jewish Academy of Orlando students score two and three grade levels ahead of peers


August 30, 2019

For the fifth straight year, on average, students at Jewish Academy of Orlando are performing at least two grade levels ahead of their peers nationwide. The test scores, from April 2019, were taken using the nationally recognized Iowa Test of Basic Skills®, commonly known as the "Iowa Assessments." The Iowa Assessment is a nationally standardized achievement test for K-12 students, allowing schools to compare their students' scores to national norms in Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science. This year, the upper grades outperformed their past performance, with average scores two and three years ahead of their peers.

The Iowa Assessments rank the students' scores by grade level equivalents. As a general guide, a score of 8.4 for a fifth grader means the student is testing on an achievement continuum at a level equivalent to an 8th grader in their fourth month, or also reads they are three years and four months ahead of their current grade level. 

"We are always grateful to see our students' scores, and even more delighted about the upper grades' performance," said Alan Rusonik, who is beginning his sixth year of Head of School. "We are proud that Jewish Academy of Orlando is a top-ranking school, not only in Orlando but in our country. 

The test is used by a large number of private schools and various states to measure grade-level performance. It is often paired with an IQ instrument such as WISC®-IV or the CogAT® for entrance into gifted and talented programs and National Honor Society.

"We try to challenge every student to the best of their ability.  Differentiated learning," Rusonik explained, "provides students with instruction, which adjusts learning, projects, homework, and classwork to meet the needs of each individual student. Through differentiated learning, it's not just about the speed at which a student covers the material; more often it is about the depth of their study. This could include opportunities for instruction beyond their current grade level to more challenging material."

Teaching to the test is not the practice of the Jewish Academy of Orlando. "We use this test for a variety of reasons. One is to get a glimpse of how our student body is performing against national norms. It is one of many indicators teachers use to gauge how well students have mastered benchmarks at each grade level," said Rusonik. "These tests also allow us to understand where we need to refine and review our curriculum to stay competitive. Our scores prove that we have been able to combine our teaching techniques, philosophies, and instruction to ensure our students reach their full potential."

In addition to JAO's strong academics, the school provides a multi-faceted whole-child development program. Nikki Buyna, Director of Academics, stated, "Jewish Academy of Orlando truly believes in educating the whole child, and we have a dual-focus as educators. We foster both academic excellence and social-emotional growth, cultivating values of kindness, self-awareness, mindfulness, and character." 

To further this thought, Rusonik added, "We are extremely proud of our students' academic achievements; we are focused on graduating children that are happy, confident, love to learn, and know how to get along with their peers; students that are ready for the world!" 

Jewsh Academy of Orlando serves central Florida students of all faiths from grades kindergarten through fifth. The school delivers a whole-child education fostering academic excellence and character education rooted in Jewish values. Jewish Academy of Orlando is accredited by the Florida Council of Independent Schools. Beginning in fall of 2019, the school will offer a transitional kindergarten.

To learn more about Jewish Academy of Orlando, please visit: or follow the school on Facebook


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