Written by Aliza Schauder, Manhasset@Antonnews.com Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:00
Manhasset’s students put their content area knowledge – and test taking skills – up for evaluation in April, and according to Superintendent Charles Cardillo, fared better than their counterparts in nearly every other Long Island school district.
In fact, according to Manhasset’s calculations, its students ranked second, only falling behind their peers in Jericho.
Cardillo is pleased with his students’ comparative successes, but is keenly aware of the statewide plunge in scores.
This year marked the first that state exams reflected the Common Core State Standards, a nationwide initiative that required instructional shifts in English language arts and mathematics education. The former is now centered on expectations such as balancing informational and literary texts, providing text-based answers and building academic vocabularies, while expectations for the latter involve coherence, fluency and applications.
According to New York State Education Department data, only 31.1 percent of third through eighth graders ranked at Level 3 (proficient in their grade’s Common Core Learning Standards) or Level 4 (excelling in their grade’s Common Core Learning Standards) in English language arts. Thirty-one percent of New York’s third through eight graders ranked at Level 3 or Level 4 in math.
“It was definitely expected … because the 2013 tests would be aligned, for the first time, with the more rigorous Common Core standards,” said Jonathan Burman, NYSED assistant director of communications.
Manhasset’s students fared much better than their statewide counterparts. The district’s sixth graders demonstrated the most remarkable English language arts proficiencies (73.2 percent ranked at Level 3 or Level 4), while its fourth graders displayed the most remarkable mathematical proficiencies (77.3 percent ranked at Level 3 or Level 4).
Charles Leone, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, credits Manhasset’s students with consistent high-level performances, and recognizes their teachers for embedding literacy into all content areas and embracing professional development opportunities through the past school year.
Still, Manhasset’s administration maintains that students are preparing for a dangerously high amount of exams.
“The over testing is taking away from quality instruction time,” Cardillo said, noting potential solutions such as alternating grade levels for tests or administering them every third year. “Between the length of the exams, the frequency of administering the exams … it takes away from the creativity of classrooms, from the stimulating learning environments and really [breeds]… an overemphasis on simple test preparation.”
Christy Weppler, former executive president the Manhasset School Community Association, agrees.
“The problem is that, basically every January, the curriculum shifts and everyone starts to teach to the test. Because they have to. Because they are reviewed that way,” she said, citing the state’s use of students’ results to inform teacher and principal evaluations.
“Because we have great teachers and great students, Manhasset will inevitably rise to the top. However, at what cost?”
The federal government has required third through eighth graders to take annual tests for approximately 10 years, Burman said, and New York State officials are not discussing ways to lobby for change. Rather, it will begin a three-year unveiling of Regents exams that are tied to the Common Core Learning Standards in June.
“Assessments aligned with the new, more rigorous Common Core standards are integral parts of the Regents reform agenda. But they are only one part,” he said, noting that Common Core curriculum development, building instructional data systems, recruiting effective educators and improving low achieving schools are also key components.