Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00
Responding to alleged misconceptions about New York State’s new common core testing module, the Mineola School District is planning to host a town-hall style talk for concerned parents.
The state reported a 40 percent drop in test scores at the beginning of the school year across Long Island in third-through eighth-grade English and math scores. Mineola’s scores for common core English tests showed student proficiency at 39.8 percent with math grades coming in at just 43.7 percent.
The biggest drop-off from Regents exams to common tests was in eighth-grade math, where District Superintendent Michael Nagler estimated that 92 percent passed the Regents last year, while just 25 percent passed the new test this year. The exams are expected to debut algebra tests for junior and high school students in 2015.
Board of Education Vice President Christine Napolitano suggested the forum at a recent school board meeting, stating that parent banter and social media played a part in her speaking out.
“I’m hearing a lot of chatter about common core and I’m getting concerned that there is a lot of misinformation and miscommunication to parents about what common core really is in terms of the assessment, curriculum and testing,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano stressed that she wasn’t implying “Mineola wasn’t doing a good job,” but that “there’s so much chatter,” waters can become muddied.
“I’m just concerned because I’ve been reading so much, especially on social media,” she said. “People mailing back tests to the commissioner of education and these stories about how common core is changing their child...I can’t help but think if I was a young parent with young children being constantly bombarded with this, it would be hard not to [be against common core].”
The exam has more riding on it than student scores when it comes to the Annual Professional Performance Review plan (APPR), which evaluates teachers and principals. In APPR, standardized test scores comprise 20 percent of an educator’s “grade.” But because in New York State teachers are ranked against each other, any drop due to the changed tests was equal across the board.
“There’s stress from teachers because they’re being assessed on student performance, stress from parents because of the results, stress from administrators because they’re getting judged as well,” said Nagler. “You have APPR, this test and you don’t know what it is. I’m hoping that’s minimized.”
Mineola is one of three Nassau County school districts that sends representatives directly to Albany on policy and curriculum matters. District Assistant Superintendent Patricia Burns routinely reports back to the board from the state capitol about educational matters.
“I think that we try very hard here to give teachers the support they need to implement the common core standards,” she said. “I think we’re using what’s available at this time, but we also used our own resources that we have here so teachers can be creative. I think [the forum] is a great idea.”
Trustee Nicole Matzer said the standards set by the district may be lumped together with the state tests and that “I like what I see coming home. I see a huge difference and like the fact that the bar has been raised.”
Board President Artie Barnett is hoping a forum would bring clarity to the issues with the new testing model.
“I think one of the things [Napolitano] said hits it on the head,” Barnett said. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about what’s going on. I don’t want to call it hysteria.”
No date has been set for the common core forum, but would most likely occur after the Nov. 19 referendum, where residents will vote on the usage of $3.8 million from its capital reserve fund to make various repairs at its Mineola schools.