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Board Demands More Test Data

Last Monday, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education held its first meeting since NY State Education Commissioner John B. King released the results of the April 2013 math and English assessments. The board demanded that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) release more information on the test scores.

As the district prepares to begin the 2013-14 school year, the school board’s general consensus is not enough data is being made available to help students learn from their mistakes on the assessments, and prepare for future tests.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jill Gierasch, who proclaimed 2013-14 as “a year of digging deeper,” gave a brief presentation on the district results comparing to Nassau County and New York State results. A more comprehensive presentation will be given next month.

Along with the rest of the board, Giersach expressed frustration over “not being provided with the deficits - we just know the results.”

“I don’t know that third graders fell short in adding or subtracting fractions at this point, the State doesn’t even provide districts with that data,” Giersach said. “You have to go in and, what I call mine through the data, and break down each individual child.”

Gierasch explained the district doesn’t get to see the questions (only the skill area), however the district gives each teacher a report on children on who fell short.

“It takes almost 15 to 20 minutes to mine through that data and get the report for one child,” Gierasch said.

Superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage Schools Lorna Lewis said it’s “hard to translate how the (NYSED) statisticans feel - they think they give out meaningful data, and there is no convincing them that they’re not.”  As of now, Lewis said all the district has is a scale score for each child, and months later “perhaps,” a report that identifies the skill deficits, “but in a very general sense.”

Lewis also expressed concern over the students’ performance towards the end of the test, and proposed the question of whether fatigue was a factor in the results, saying: “some of these kids never got to the end of the test.”

Trustee Gary Bettan pushed concerns even further, saying: “It’s okay for the tax payers to have to pay millions of dollars to try to remediate the effects of these test scores, but the test companies can’t be inconvenienced to provide the questions and be held accountable for the bad questions - I think its worth while to have a resolution on its own demanding that they release the test at least for this first year.”

Bettan then suggested to FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) the test, which the district is looking into.

During the meeting’s public comment section, Plainview-Old Bethpage PTA Council President Cheryl Dender brought to the board concerns from the community, echoing their sentiments and inquired about the district giving students Academic Intervention Services (AIS).

Lewis said that students who scored at the lowest level (L1) will all be given AIS as well as the “lower half” of the students scoring at the second-lowest level (L2).

“In level two, we really are developing an individual plan,” Lewis said.  “We’re developing a profile for each child, and once we get all that information, we’ll be firm on who gets AIS.”

Giersach encouraged everyone in attendance to review the district’s AIS policy on their website.

Dender then shifted the focus to younger grades, emotionally sharing concerns over the demands of kindergarten students, saying: “What do we want from them?  To me, I want them to just learn to share, speak nicely to each other and learn respect - I worry that because of these tests, we’re going to be putting something on these kids that they’re not capable of.”

Lewis agreed with Dender’s concerns, saying “its a conversation that needs to happen.”

Lewis explained that according to Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), special area teachers need to give a Student Learning Objective (SLO) for their course for 50 percent or more of their population. Kindergarten students take additional assessments such as, for example, an art and music teacher 7-10 question assessment.

Lewis also said that kindergarten classroom teachers use AIMSweb assessment as part of their Response to Intervention strategy in Literacy, and the district does ssessments with kindergarten math for APPR.