ICC faults state on new tests

KINDERHOOK–Ichabod Crane School District Superintendent George Zini this week joined the list of school officials around the county and the state who are addressing the issue of state testing using the Common Core curriculum. Mr. Zini told the school board the at the regular meeting Tuesday night that letters would soon be sent home to parents about the drop in test scores for students in grades 3 through 8.
Last school year the state raised the benchmarks for student proficiency in English and math before the school district had time to teach to the new standards.
Also, the board is still looking for volunteers to serve on the Strategic Planning Committee. Mr. Zini said the board is seeking application from parents, students, educators, residents and business owners in the community to develop a plan for the future of the school district. Applications are due September 20 at the central office. At the September 3 meeting the board talked about the opening day of school, scheduled for Thursday. Roof repairs on the high school are complete but there is still a work to be done on the track and masonry work will continue. “So far, this late summer project has moved along nicely,” said Steven Marotta, director of facilities and operations. The track repair and other projects are part of the capital improvement project approved by voters last December.
As for state testing last spring, Mr. Zini said, “The scores were pretty bad in 3rd through 8th.” But he stressed that the failure was at the state level. He said letters and scores would go out to parents in the coming week. He was concern that parents would have a hard time explaining to their students about the drop in their test scores. “They don’t understand the politics around it,” he said of trying to explain the lower grades to students.
“The Common Core is good, and raising the bar is a good thing,” Mr. Zini said of the new curriculum and the testing but he stressed that the state did not roll out the changes properly and that this year’s test scores are not useful assessments tools for teachers and students.
“Our kids have not failed and our teachers have not failed,” he told the board.
“Our scores are no different than anyone else’s,” said Board Present Anthony Welcome, who talked about districts all over the region having low grades.
Melissa Murray, district principal for Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), said that the students had only about a year with the Common Core curriculum before they were tested on it. And Middle/Elementary School Principal Tim Farley pointed students who answered 86% of the questions correctly on the math test were considered performing “on average” but students with a score of 84% were considered “below grade average.”
Mr. Zini said that in Massachusetts, where he previously served as a superintendent, the state phased in a core curriculum over three years. He said the New York State Education Department “poorly implemented” the changes and in the coming years the tests would become more useful for assessments of both students and teachers.
In other business this week the board approved a policy that would add a student representative to the board for the 2014-15 school year. Adding the non-voting student delegate to the board is a proposal that will need to be approved by voters in a referendum. The proposition for the position will appear on the ballot in May 2014.
The board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 17 in the high school library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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