ICC seeks answers to testing requirements

KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education looked at graduation rates and assessments at the regular meeting January 8. The district’s goal is to increase the graduation rate and school officials are looking at students’ test scores and grades throughout their time in the district.

One issue the board had when viewing the numbers at the meeting was that the district still has a high “opt out” rate for the state mandated tests in the lower grades. State testing starts in third through eighth grades.

Suzanne Guntlow, district principal for the annual performance review, called the APPR, presented the data to the board. She said that students in the district do well on state Regents exams in high school. But only about 50% of students took the state math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests in the primary and middle schools. Ms. Guntlow did say that the number of students who took the test last year increased over the prior year. When the state implemented the testing in 2013 parents could refuse to have their child take the tests with no penalty to the student or the school district’s funding.

In January 2018, the federal government approved the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). According the state Education Department, the law “outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools.” The law includes the state testing and “requires that 95% of students in each tested subgroup take the appropriate state tests.” Though the state has not said the district’s opt out rate will affect state aid funding yet, Ms. Guntlow said that the state will step in if districts have not met the law’s requirements. She said there could be “difficulties” down the road with the state if district does not meet the 95%.

Ichabod Crane Board President Matthew Nelson asked how the district was planning to get more students to take the tests.

Ms. Guntlow said that the district is starting an Opt Back-In Task Force. Administrators plan to hold parent information nights about the testing.

“It’s a lot of misinformation,” said primary school Principal Andrea Williams, describing what parents know about the state tests. She also said the state had made changes after parents voiced their concerns about the testing. The state has decreased the amount of time the testing takes, she said and she talked about ways reduce the stress associated with the tests.

Parents and some teachers were also concerned about the whether the tests were age appropriate for the students.

“I think they are age appropriate,” said Ms. Williams.

Ms. Guntlow said she plans to present the board with assessment data every quarter at regular meetings.

The board also heard a presentation from the Special Education Department about its programs in all three school buildings. The teachers and district Director of Special Education Peg Warner talked about co-teaching in the primary school as well as in fourth and fifth grades, and the services and classes offered to students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in the middle school and high school. Ms. Warner told the board that Ichabod Crane is one of the few districts that continues to help students with reading and other services all the way through high school. She said the state goal is that all students graduate with a Regents diploma, though the district offers a local diploma as well.

Also at the meeting:

• Superintendent Michael Vanyo said that the district would be meeting with architects and the construction manager to lay “some groundwork” on the recently approved $27 million in capital improvements. Voters narrowly approved the plan for the district to spend that amount to upgrade all three school buildings, add a road connecting the buildings on campus and other projects on the bus garage and maintenance building. The architectural plans need to be finalized and sent to state for approval before work can start. The wait at SED could take several months. Work is not expected to start until 2020

• District Business Manager Michael Brennan introduced a “rollover” budget to the board. He stressed that the budget process was long and that this was an early step. The district does not know how much state aid to expect or what the state mandated property tax cap will be for next school year’s budget. Mr. Brennan showed the numbers if they took the expenses the district knows it will have for next year and moved them into 2019-20 school year. There will be more budget presentations over the next few months with a final budget will be ready for residents to vote on May 21

• The board appointed Doug Kelley to continue serving as interim middle school principal through March 4 at a rate of $450 a day. Mr. Kelley has been serving in the position since November, when Middle School Principal Tim Farley took a leave of absence due to health issues

• Questar III/BOCES Board member Ed Brooks attended the meeting to ask the board to nominate him to the continue serving on the Questar III board. Mr. Nelson said the board would put information out to other candidates interested in the position to see if anyone came forward before the board nominated Mr. Brooks. The ICC board nominates one person to the Questar board for a three-year term

• Representatives from the Kinderhook Library attended the meeting to talk about services the local library offers and told the district the library is a resource. Students in the primary school have been taking field trips to the newly renovated library in the Village of Kinderhook

• District parent Jay Radez presented the board with a petition asking for transparency in the district. The first line says “this petition is made to support greater, genuine and meaningful discourse between the Ichabod Crane Central School district and the residents, and more of a partnership.” Mr. Radez said that about 50 people had signed the petition with more support from people online.

The board will hold a workshop meeting Tuesday, January 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, February 5 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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