Monday, March 30, 2015

The Truth About Testing

Electrify Your Strings: West Genesee strings students participated in a spectacular two-day event including workshops, rehearsals, and performances with professional electric violinist, Bridgid Bibbens. Parents, students, and community members were then treated to a pretty cool musical encounter on Saturday night when she put on a spectacular performance. I have received a lot of feedback about an encore performance so I will absolutely speak to our Director of Fine Arts to see if that can happen at some point. Thanks to all who attended. 

Healthy Can Taste Good! If your children are coming home and are excited about school lunch there is a reason for that. We recently applied for and received what is called a "Whole Grain-Rich Exemption" which allows us to substitute fifty percent of our menu from whole grains to enriched grain.

This waiver was necessary to get some relief from the Federal Healthy Choices initiative. The waiver might sound minimal, but it allows us to use a whole variety of crusts and breads that students will actually eat. Ask your children about the pizza last week and they will tell you how big of a deal the waiver is! It is the little things that count.

Truth About Testing: Going back to the title of this blog, who knows what the truth is right now about testing. What I do know is that there are a lot of parents, teachers, administrators, and Board of Education members angry at the New York State Education Department as well as the office of the Governor. As we get closer to the dates for grades 3-8 New York State Assessments, you will hear from people, probably see signs telling parents to have their children refuse the tests, and you might even see a picket sign or two depending where you are in the community.

For people who are not involved in this topic on a daily basis I would like to let you know where I stand on this issue as your Superintendent. For starters, I think we all need to agree that there is a difference between the new standards, called the Common Core Learning Standards, and the assessments that are given related to those standards. I am in classrooms every day and I have seen the new standards rolled out well by expert teachers. I am also seeing more and more students find a comfort level in learning them. So my opinion of the new standards is that I cautiously support them and will become more comfortable in the coming years.

New York State asks that we test students being taught by these standards, and those tests are called the New York State Assessments for grades 3-8. They are scheduled to be administered April 14-16 (English Language Arts) and April 22-24 (Mathematics). Some people feel that the testing cycle for the new standards was poorly rolled out, that the tests in their current state are not valid, and the results in no way let a teacher, parent, or student know how the student is actually progressing. That is where the questioning and anger come from. I totally understand where these people are getting their views and feelings from.

Here is what I can say about the New York State Grades 3-8 Assessments. 
  • School Districts in New York State are required to administer them.  
  • None of my employees (this includes me) are permitted to tell parents to refuse the assessments for their children, nor will they encourage parents to have their children take them.  
  • If parents do decide to have their children refuse the New York State Grades 3-8 Assessments via letter or e-mail, their child will sit in the testing room and be allowed to read quietly.  We do not have the space to allow students who refuse to be moved to an alternate location. It is as simple as that.  
When I feel differently or can act differently about the Assessments, I will write about them again.

National Honor Society: The induction ceremony is tonight and then we are on the heels of spring break.

Enjoy the week and hopefully some warmer temperatures!