Tag Archives: New York State Standardized Tests

KCSD 2014-2015 Budget being APPROVED at Board of Education meeting tonight!

The agenda is available for the Board of Education meeting tonight and the item that SHOULD be the primary discussion tonight is the approval of the budget for next school year.  However the budget is simply listed as resolution B89 in the consent agenda!  I am hoping that it will be removed from the consent agenda so there will be some discussion by the Board of Ed tonight before it is approved in preparation for the public vote on May 20, 2014.

UPDATE:  The draft budget on the district website dated 4/7/14 is NOT the budget being approved tonight.  The budget being approved is dated 4/14/14 and has a tax levy of 1.51% so there are additional reductions from what is listed in the draft on the website.

I am concerned as to whether the public has had adequate opportunity to review the budget, ask questions, and give feedback to the board of ed yet.  The first announcement of the draft budget that I saw was posted on the school district website yesterday April 22, 2014 here .  Just went searching back through old e-mails though and discovered that I missed a very brief announcement a week ago.  Went back to the week-ending district summary for April 11 and found this line – “To review  a draft version of the budget, take our survey, or find your voting location  please visit http://www.kingstoncityschools.org/budget.cfm.”  I have to admit that I was slightly distracted by a big birthday party and frantic packing for a trip that day (what should have been the Friday before spring break if not for all our snow days) – oops!

Whether you are reviewing the budget today or did catch a glimpse of it on April 11, comments submitted directly to board members during the day today or during public comment tonight are your last chance to ask questions or make an impact on the budget so don’t miss out!

The Board of Ed meeting is being held at Miller Middle School.  The meeting will begin at 6pm with a welcome from Principal Jo Burruby and then go to executive session.  Public session is anticipated to resume at 7pm with any actions coming out of executive session and then going into public comment.

In addition to the district budget for the 2014-2015 school year, the Superintendent’s Report contains 2nd Century Project (KHS), a School Safety Excellence Award and Common Core Testing.  A variety of personnel resolutions are on the agenda including ones having to do with Assistant Superintendent Marystephanie Corsones.

First reading of the following policies are also scheduled for tonight:

  • Policy 1530 Smoking and Other Tobacco Use on School Premises
  • Policy 4321.3 Allocation of Space for Special Education Programs
  • Policy 4321.8 Impartial Hearing Officer Appointment and Compensation

 

Governor Cuomo says Common Core testing is unfair

Have you seen Governor Cuomo’s commercial where he says that testing on the Common Core is ‘premature’, ‘creates anxiety’ and ‘unfair’?  I don’t watch much television so haven’t seen it on TV but here is the commercial on the internet.

According to this Newsday article, the commercial began airing on March 2, 2014 and was paid for by Cuomo’s re-election campaign.  While Governor Cuomo admitted the tests are not good for the children, he made no acknowledgment of the fact that the teachers should not be rated on “premature”, “anxiety-creating” and “unfair” tests as part of his commercial.  Governor Cuomo was the person who pushed through the entire APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) system which tied the teacher rating system to the state standardized tests.  This April 1 article was the first hint that Governor Cuomo is starting to finally realize that the state standardized tests might also not be the best way to rate the teachers:

“If you said Common Core testing was premature for the students, and you just halted the grades on the transcripts, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations, and what should be done?” he continued.  “That is an issue that we have not addressed and that we need to address before the end of session, in my opinion, depending on what happens.” – Capital New York April 1, 2014

You might have heard that provisions were made in the New York State budget bill that are significantly helping our students in the area of high-stakes testing.  However these ‘signature reforms’ don’t actually pan out when examined closely as explained in this article.  The changes to keep state tests scores off report cards, limit the amount of testing and not allow testing to be used for promotion are inconsequential for Kingston students.  For Kingston students, state test scores have never appeared on report cards, they have never been a factor in grade promotion, and kindergarten through second grade students have never had to take the state standardized tests.  There are lots of problems with the state tests but not those particular items.  Our students are still taking, in the words of Governor Cuomo, “premature”, “anxiety-creating” and “unfair” tests unless parents choose to refuse the state tests!

Governor Cuomo has reaffirmed my belief that my student should REFUSE the state tests.  Here are some of my reasons for our refusal of the New York State ELA and Math tests.

Green Laces

Here is information on how to refuse the upcoming state math test for your student if you agree with Governor Cuomo.

 

Jolyn Safron’s Statement on Testing

Green Laces

At the request of the Kingston City School District to consider the advantages of encouraging my child to come to school well-rested and prepared to participate in the upcoming New York State math assessments beginning on April 30, 2014, this parent has considered the request and I would like to present my response.

KCSD Statement on Testing – April 10, 2014

The Kingston City School District respectfully requests that all parents consider the advantages of encouraging their children to come to school well-rested and prepared to participate in the upcoming New York State assessments. Participating in these tests has benefits for the individual student, their classmates, their teachers, and their school community as a whole.

I have been thinking and thinking about what possible benefit taking the upcoming New York State math assessment could possibly have for my child.

  • If she takes the math assessment, she will be sitting in a room taking a test that serves no useful purpose for her personally for 9 hours*.
  • If she refuses the test she can use that time to do something she enjoys immensely and which builds vocabulary and all sorts of other wonderful things – read!
  • My daughter happens to be a good test taker so she does not need to practice test-taking for future tests, one of the suggested benefits below.  In fact she gets plenty of test-taking practice on her graded tests that are required for her class grades and I can not imagine when she will ever take a test that requires the extended time required for the New York State assessments, using the tests as a ‘stepping stone’ below.  My understanding is that the tests to be certified as a doctor or a lawyer are shorter than these assessments and the Regents test is definitely shorter since each Regents test is completed in a single morning or afternoon.

After all that thinking I can’t come up with any personal benefits for my daughter to take the New York State math test.  In fact I believe that there is potential for my daughter and her fellow classmates to be hurt by taking the New York State tests.  I won’t go into all the details but if you are not familiar with the wide variety of issues and concerns that many parents, teachers and even some school administrators have regarding standardized testing, please read this article which hits lots of key points.

Are the Tests Really High Stakes?

The state test results for students in grades 3-8 are not used to determine promotion or retention. They are never used in isolation in KCSD as an indicator of giftedness. They do not follow the student to high school and they are not included in a student’s high school transcript to determine class rank, scholarship eligibility, or college admission. Selection for honors level classes in grade 8 for high school courses relies upon other factors in addition to the tests like report cards, teacher recommendations and –in the case of Honors English, ELA – essays. In Grades 3 – 8, if a student performs poorly on a test they may receive extra supports or services. This is not a punitive measure – it is to help the student do their very best.

I believe the New York State tests are high-stakes because the tests affect the rating of the teachers and that has an impact on the students.  Our students look up to their teachers and want to do what the teachers say.  Teachers are validly concerned about being rated using a system based on standardized test scores because it is not a reliable way to show what students have learned nor what teachers have taught.  You can read here for more details.  The bad rating system places stress on teachers and I don’t see how we can expect no indication of the stress teachers are feeling to come across to the children.  The students will know that the tests are important to the teacher even if the teacher doesn’t say so.  Even if a teacher is truly not concerned about their rating, the teacher will tell the students to ‘Do your best.’  Students are NOT going to want to let their teachers down and have the potential to feel very high stress regarding how well they do on the ‘high stakes’ tests.  And let’s admit – what kid is really going to believe ‘Just do your best, the test doesn’t really matter’.  If it doesn’t matter, why do they have to take the test?!?

Why Take the Test?

-Testing provides the KCSD with important data that allows us to plan curriculum and identify our strengths and weaknesses. As we seek to be an organization of continuous improvement, we need tools to help measure our progress. The information gleaned from these tests is one piece of the puzzle. Testing data helps us to target specific improvements and aids us in learning how we can better serve our students.

KCSD needs to find better ways of collecting data to plan curriculum and identify our strengths and weaknesses.  This article gives some teacher/administrator feedback from New York City on how poorly designed the New York State tests were this year.  I bet our teachers could give a bunch of suggestions of ways to gather that data – things like portfolios, classroom observation, methods that actually give a good representation of the whole story regarding what our students are learning.

-For students in our younger grades, these tests provide a “stepping stone” to tests of increasing length and intensity as they move up in their educational careers. Beginning in the third grade, student scores on tests are factored into a number of important decisions, including the selection of students for enrichment opportunities. While test scores are only one factor in the selection process, achievement on exams helps students to better their chances of being offered accelerated learning opportunities.

I have already shared my thoughts on the tests as ‘stepping stones’ to longer tests.  Children do NOT need to be stepping up to this many hours of testing!  I do find it interesting that this reason for taking the tests stresses how the tests are factored into a number of important decisions for students – isn’t that what ‘high stakes’ tests are?

-Low participation levels can have an adverse impact on school communities. Schools with a testing participation rate lower than 95% will be labeled by New York State as being required to undergo an improvement process. Those schools must form inquiry teams comprised of teachers and administrators. Participating in the test – no matter how a student scores – enables a school to show compliance. This keeps teachers in the classroom, doing what they do best – teaching. Being out of compliance adds another layer of mandated work for our KCSD teachers and administrators. In addition, Title I funding formulas utilize the performance of schools and districts on these tests to determine how much state aid a District will get and how much control (autonomy) the district will have in determining how it should be utilized.

This concern over Title 1 funding is causing parents to be pitted against administration and with the way this district statement is written, administration is essentially pitting parents against parents.  If parents choose to exercise their right to refuse the test for their children, other parents can blame them for money lost by the district.  Money is not going to be lost by the district.  Please go read this explanation and note that Kingston is already a focus district and has title 1 schools so you will want to follow it through to the end.  Since we are already a focus district, my guess is that we already have a bunch of paperwork that isn’t helping a whole lot so how about another solution?  Let’s come together as a district and stand with others throughout the state against the inappropriate use of testing!  If all of the districts in the state have lower than 95% participation rate, the state isn’t going to be able to give every district unnecessary oversight.  If the additional oversight by the state from falling below 95% is going to be helpful to the district, then we should welcome it.

-Testing helps prepare students for the future. When students opt out of tests in elementary and middle school, they miss an opportunity to gain a comfort level and familiarity with standardized testing. Learning to become good test takers requires practice. When tests become more important – such as the Regents exams for graduation or SAT test for college entrance – experience can help students to feel confident and do their absolute best.

Becoming a good test taker doesn’t necessarily require practice.  Some are just naturally good at it.  Some aren’t good no matter how hard they try.  Some do get better with practice but lots of standardized testing isn’t the future I want for our students.  And what are we going to do when the federal legislation HR-4172 passes (I am working to help get this legislation passed!) which will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests that states are required to administer?  HR-4172 would eliminate the need for annual testing and replace it with grade-span testing (or testing once in elementary school and once in middle school) like we had before No Child Left Behind.  Is this standardized test practice really so important that we will force our students to take practice standardized tests each year, even if the federal government does not require it, so they will have adequate experience to feel confident to take the Regents or the SAT?  I sure hope not!

There has been much discussion about the need for reform in education, and the KCSD wholeheartedly agrees that we need to do better for our students. We will be strengthened by acting together – not separately – to change education. Test refusal is a one-time action that could impact a school community for years to come by creating an inappropriate and inaccurate label of that school’s student population.

What are we going to be ‘acting together’ to do and how?  Involved parents have asked for partnership with and direction from the school district regarding how to advocate with the state department of education and state legislators but have been told that ‘our lawyers tell us we can’t say anything about that’ or words to that effect.  I understand that the school administration and Board of Education have to follow the state and federal laws/regulations but there seems to be little acknowledgement of the many concerns that parents and teachers have regarding the state tests.  The Board of Education passed Resolution BOE67 High Stakes Testing on March 20, 2013 (p. 21-22 of minutes) but there has been very little discussion of the topic since that time.  Other districts are supporting parents to help bring about change.  Unfortunately I am not feeling a partnership here but more ‘let me tell you what to do’.  This parent has not embarked upon the course of action of refusing the tests lightly.  Test refusal is NOT a one-time action but rather an action targeted at the problem – the standardized tests!  While I wish to be acting together with KCSD to change education, I can not, in good conscience as a parent, encourage my child to take the state tests.  I will continue to act in the best interest of my child and the children of this community by REFUSING the tests.

Thank you for taking the time to review this information. We are committed to your child’s education, and to making the KCSD the best that it can be

Thank you for taking the time to review my thoughts and information.  I am committed to my child’s education as well as the education of all of the children of Kingston and to making the KCSD the best that it can be as well.

Jolyn Safron

 

*Most students will not actually be taking tests for 9 hours – only those who have double-time accommodations in their IEPs.  However at Bailey for the ELA test, students spent approximately 3 hours each day in the testing rooms even though they were only given 70 minutes for grades 3 and 4 and 90 minutes for grades 5 – 8 (plus 10 minutes of preparation/test instruction time for all grades) to take the tests.  For the math state test students without IEP modifications will have 60-90 minutes each day, depending on their grade, to complete the test in addition to the 10 minutes of preparation.  My assumption is that the students will remain in the test room for the maximum possible test time as they did for the ELA tests.  Details regarding the test formats, times and accommodations can be found in the Teacher’s Directions files at the Office of State Assessment.

 

 

KCSD Statement on Testing

image

Refusing the New York State tests and potential impact on Kingston Honors courses

Our family struggled long and hard with the decision as to whether Julia, our 7th grader, would refuse the state tests this year. Julia had kids signing a petition against the tests last year and she has been wearing green laces (Lace to the Top) for a year so she is personally concerned about issues related to testing. I have also been concerned by many issues related to high-stakes testing. Our family’s primary reluctance has been the issue of placing stress on the child to have to practice civil disobedience in refusing the tests. With the assurances from the Kingston school district the week before ELA testing was to begin that pressure would not be placed on the students to sit and stare and the expected extensions of that philosophy into treating all refusing students with consideration and respect throughout the testing time, we decided to refuse the tests.

Green Laces

I am very happy to report that other than having to spend 9 hours last week sitting in the Bailey auditorium (3 hours on each of the 3 days of testing), the testing week went smoothly for Julia.  She loves to read and passed the time with her books although having to sit in the same spot for 3 hours is hard for anyone and I feel for the staff who were overseeing the approximately 180 students on day 1 of testing in the auditorium and over 200 students on days 2 and 3.  Julia said that some students did not remember to bring books with them to read so I am not sure how they kept themselves occupied.

One question that was not answered before the testing began was what impact, if any, refusing the state tests might have on Julia’s ability to participate in honors courses next year.  I submitted the question to the district via the new Let’s Talk application when it was introduced last Tuesday April 1, 2014 and received the following answer in my e-mail today April 9, 2014.

Question: What impact will my daughter’s refusing the state tests have on her ability to participate in honors courses next year?

Answer:
Students may opt of state tests and still be selected to participate in honors courses; however, sitting for state exams and achieving a high score can help students better their chances of being chosen for the honors program.
In English Language Arts, students must meet KCSD standards in 5 of 7 criterion:
1) 7th Grade ELA test score
2) 8th Grade ELA test score
3) Report Card average over 92 percent
4) STAR assessment
5) Guidance recommendation
6) Teacher recommendation
7) Honors Essay

In Math and Science, students must meet KCSD standards in 5 of 6 criterion*:
1) 7th Grade Math/Science test scores
2) 8th Grade Math/Science test score
3) Report Card average over 92 percent
4) STAR assessment
5) Guidance recommendation
6) Teacher recommendation
*Math and Science are separate courses

 

April and High-Stakes Tests are just around the corner

April means the start of ‘test season’ especially since Common Core with the increased emphasis on high stakes testing via the New York State Tests and SLOs (Student Learning Objectives)  was implemented.  There are SLOs at the beginning of the year to set benchmarks and some high stakes testing throughout the year but things really kick in about now.

Upcoming spring testing was a topic of discussion at the March 6, 2014 District Wide Parents’ Council meeting and the DWPC Parent Calendar has been updated with known test dates K-12.  Regents tests and other tests that actually affect a student’s grades are not listed.

The Kingston City School District has clarified for parents that “[KCSD] does not have a practice of leaving students without exams to just sit and stare at their classroom walls.  [They] believe in treating all students with respect and compassion.”  The remainder of the response in Setting the Record Straight changed slightly since being initially posted this afternoon as to whether the students refusing the tests would be in a separate location or with the other students taking tests so that might vary from school to school but parents can be confident that their children will not ‘sit and stare’ during the time state tests are administered.  Be sure to get the written letter refusing the test submitted soon though if you believe that your student should not take the state tests.

New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) issued a statement today expressing concern that some districts might require students to give a verbal refusal of the test in addition to the written letter submitted by the parent.  However I believe that all Kingston students will indeed be treated with respect and compassion during the administration of the state tests and parents who have decided to refuse the test for their child can rest confident that their child will not be forced to give a verbal refusal.

Parents might be interested in checking out documents on the NYSED Office of State Assessment website such as school administrator’s manuels or teacher’s directions for the various New York State tests to see the extremes that our teachers and administrators are forced to go to to ensure that the tests are ‘secure’.  One could be excused for thinking they were entering a maximum-security facility on testing days rather than an educational building.

Test books and scoring materials must be kept secure. You are not to discuss the test, show it to anyone, or photocopy the materials, as the security of the test could be breached.   2014 Common Core English Language Arts Tests Teacher’s Directions p. IV

Teachers and administrators who engage in inappropriate conduct with respect to administering and scoring State assessments may be subject to disciplinary actions in accordance with Sections 3020 and 3020-a of Education Law or to action against their certification pursuant to Part 83 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. – 2014 Common Core English Language Arts Test Teacher’s Direction p. 1

Pages 11-14 of “2014 Common Core English Language Arts Test Teacher’s Directions” contain the directions that the teacher administering the test must read word-for-word to the third grade students on Day 1 of the test and then make sure that the students totally understand.  Five pages of directions!!  Only four pages of directions for day 2 of testing and three pages of directions for day 3 so it gets a little better each day – whew!