Ithaca, N.Y. — Officials at both the Ithaca and Groton school districts have issued statements criticizing the upcoming state tests for students — while recognizing that the schools are forced to administer the tests.

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“From my perspective, assessments are useful when having an impact on the learning/learner and when informing needed instructional shifts,” Superintendent Luvelle Brown of ICSD wrote in an open letter.

“I do not agree with the emphasis being placed on state testing by the Governor and NYS Legislature when making judgments about student and teacher performance.”

A similar letter posted on the Groton Central School District website encouraged parents to let students take the test but still criticized the state.

“These standards are not as problematic as the tragic misfire that occurred when NYSED rolled them out with little preparation and support to teachers, administrators and parents,” the letter said. “In spite of the stumbling, we are starting to see students make strides with the skills required for these standards and, ultimately, for the assessments.”

Here’s the letter in full from Brown:

SuperintendentLetter About Grades3-8Testing (2)

And here is the letter in full from Groton CSD:

“To the parents of our grades three through eight students:

The NYS Assessment will take place during the third and fourth weeks of April. Your children have been working steadily to prepare for these tests and we are expecting great things from your children.

There are always a few parents who request to have their children exempted from these tests. We respect the right of a parent to do this, but as the principal at Groton Jr/Sr High School, I would like to offer some solid rationale for allowing your children to take these tests.

Most people who choose to refuse testing do so because they are uncomfortable with the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLSs). These standards are not as problematic as the tragic misfire that occurred when NYSED rolled them out with little preparation and support to teachers, administrators and parents. In spite of the stumbling, we are starting to see students make strides with the skills required for these standards and, ultimately, for the assessments.

Why should you allow your child to take these tests? Here are a few reasons:

1. In NYS, a diploma is predicated on your child completing Regents’ Exams. A diploma cannot be obtained without successful completion of these tests. This June, there will be three common core exams: English, Algebra and Geometry. Next year the Algebra 2 exam will join math and two years from then, the Common Core Global will be implemented. In 2019, the Common Core US History exam will begin. As you can see, your children will have to take common core tests. It is important to make sure they are achieving grade level standards before they start taking the tests that truly count. The current 7th grade class will be riding the wave of these new exams as they are introduced.

2. As the Regents’ Exams come on line, the SAT/ACT are also going common core. Any student who wishes to pursue a college education will undoutedly be challenged by these exams.

3. We are a Focus school in a Focus district. One of the tools that the state uses to evaluate our annual progress involve our performance on these tests. If we do not have adequate performance, it counts against us. When students do not take these tests, it reduces the total number of tests considered. This impacts our data heavily because fewer tests mean that each one counts a bit more. Being a small district means that just a few missing tests can hurt the performance of the entire school.

4. Next year we will offer AIS (Academic Intervention Services) to all students who need support to demonstrate grade level achievement. This year we began to implement this program and it will be expanded in the 2016 school year. Any student who receives a I or II on these tests will be assigned to AIS. If a student does not have a score, they will be in AIS until they evidence proficient grade level skills. This is to protect children and ensure that they are ready to enter high school and successfully deal with the rigors of high stakes, Regents’ exams.

We understand that some parents are adamantly opposed to this testing. Of course, your right to say no will be respected, but we wanted to take some time to give another perspective in the interest of keeping parents informed. It is our sincere hope that all children will be present and able to take these tests during April.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.