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Oneida: Students settle for GED to avoid tests

Three district elementary schools were singled out at last week's school board meeting for recognition as among the state's highest performing: Durhamville School, North Broad Street School and W.F. Prior Elementary School. The trend bodes well for a district which has been identified as in need of improvement by the state education department.

The education department's report card continues to list Oneida City High School as, in year two, as requiring academic progress. The school is cited for failure to make annual yearly progress (AYP) in secondary-level English language arts (ELA) and secondary-level mathematics.

According to the state Education Department's report card, the school performs well with respectable test scores in those areas but fails to meet the 95 percent threshold in participation. This means that fewer than 95 percent of seniors take the tests required for graduation.

I look at our actual achievement on the tests, and it's pretty high, so that's not the issue, said Superintendent Ronald Spadafora Jr. It's the number of kids that actually take the test.

Several factors may explain the school's 91-percent participation rate.

Spadafora said a relatively high percentage of students who don't graduate with their classmates take additional time to graduate, choosing to take summer classes or even remain in school for an additional semester or two and postpone taking required tests. But still others will choose to drop out of school and settle for a GED rather than take a test they don't think they can pass. Spadafora said some community colleges now accept students with GEDs rather than a regular high school diploma which facilitates dropping out.

Probably kids say 'here I am at this point in the year, there's no way I'm passing this course, so I'm not going to the test,' Spadafora said. He said for the last two years the high school has been calling every student who didn't show up for a test, waking him up, and offering a ride if needed. So even though they call the kid and wake the kid up and offer to go pick him up he still says 'I'm not coming.'

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