Jun 02, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
In 2013, 100 percent of Cazenovia students participated in the state-mandated English Language Arts and Math tests for grades 3 through 8. This year, many parents chose to “opt out” their children from the tests and, in Math at least, the lower participation may have caused Cazenovia to fail to meet the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, Superintendent Bob Dubik told the board of education last week.
The final number tabulations for Cazenovia have not been made by the state yet, but in math the district is right on the line between achieving and failing the required 95 percent participation rate, Dubik said. A failure this year means the district must write a “district improvement plan” to submit to the state education department to explain how they will increase participation in 2015; a failure to reach 95 percent next year would put the district in jeopardy of losing Title 1 funding.
“Our best guess is that we will be close on making or not the 95 percent for math. It may not be surprising if we don’t make it. It might depend on how they round,” Dubik said. “There is no impact on money as of yet, but overall we’ll have to wait and see what state says.”
The state ELA and math tests are part of the New York P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, which were adopted in New York in 2013. The tests are intended to “ help students, parents, and educators better understand the instructional shifts demanded by the Common Core and the rigor required to ensure that all students are on track to college and career readiness,” according to state education department information.
The tests do not count towards a student’s grades or overall academic record, instead the results are used to evaluate teachers and administrators. The test participation requirements are ted to state aid to districts.
Opposition to the testing has been increasing during the past year, with parents, teachers, school administrators and political officials calling it unfair, unnecessary and a federal and state intrusion on local authority.
A recent report by the New York Times stated that the governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering signing bills to repeal the standards and replace them with locally written versions; while in Missouri, lawmakers passed a bill that would require a committee of state educators to come up with new standards within the next two years.
New York state also has seen wide opposition to the program and the testing, and, in 2014, nearly 30,000 students opted out of state tests in Westchester County alone, Dubik told the school board. “So it’s going to be a huge issue for the state,” he said.
Dubik sent a letter to district parents this past April explaining what the tests mean, why they impact the district and also that parents have the right to opt their children out of the testing.
“In order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and continue to receive Title I funding, which Cazenovia Central School receives, schools must have a 95 percent participation rate on all New York State Exams in grades 3 to 8. Title I funding serves the needs of our students. In Cazenovia, Title I funds help our district employ teachers and provide teacher training. Loss of Title I funding would have a significant detrimental impact on our district,” he wrote. “If a school does not meet AYP the consequences could result in the school being labeled as a ‘focus’ school in ‘improvement status.’ Being labeled as such will require additional reporting requirements and administrative staff time that would be better spent collaborating with parents and teachers to help our students in the classroom.”
In Cazenovia this year, 38 students in grades 3 through 8 opted out of the ELA tests — seven at the high school, 18 at the middle school and 13 at the elementary school – as opposed to zero opt outs in 2013; in math, 69 students opted out – 31 at the high school, 24 at the middle school and 16 at the elementary school – as opposed to zero in 2014.
The participation numbers are averaged over a two-year period. “So we’re okay in ELA [but] the problem there is having 100 percent last year [in math], we could be close to 85 percent this year, so I don’t anticipate us making the 95 percent average,” Dubik said.
If Cazenovia does not in fact reach the 95 percent benchmark in math this year, the district must write a “district improvement plan” explaining how it will reach the 95 percent benchmark next year – “which will basically say we have to get more kids to take the test,” he said.
However, with the opposition movement in New York state so strong, the state education department may revise the entire system, Dubik said.
“So the question is: What is state going to do about it?” he said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.