By JOHN BRANDI
As statewide standardized testing remains marred in controversy, results have shown that a percentage of students in the Harrison Central School District have made progress in a year’s time and results have ticked up in both English and mathematics.
Though fewer kids tested this year, as 19 percent of the student body in grades three through eight opted out of the state tests in Harrison, the results remained strong, according to data released by New York State’s Education Department. A range between 1,121 and 1,302 students were still tested on their skills in mathematics and English Language Arts, ELA, respectively.
Students scoring in the top three and four percentile in ELA testing have gone up five and three percentage points, respectively, from 2014 to 2015. Over that same timespan, math scores also jumped, and the students scoring in the high percentiles increased three and 11 percentage points, the latter marking the biggest jump in the results.
Harrison Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool questioned the validity of the results and felt that they weren’t good indicators of students’ progress.
“[They are] limited in value in determining whether or not students are making appropriate academic progress,” Wool told the Review.
Furthermore, the superintendent said it’s unclear if those opting out in Harrison on exam day affected test scores.
Either way, the overall message of that resistance is clear.
“We would hope that the state would take note that the opt out movement is a vote of no-confidence in its approach to assessing student growth,” Wool said.
Opting out of test-taking is still a fairly new phenomenon, with some parents pulling their kids from the classroom on test day in response to over testing and burn out. Statewide numbers of those students, in grades three through eight, who’ve opted out hovers at 20 percent, according to the same Education Department data.
Opting out is used as a civil disobedience tool to protest teacher evaluation models and Common Core curriculum standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a national, educational initiative that details what students in kindergarten through grade 12 should know in English and mathematics at the end of each grade. New York, along with 43 other states, agreed to adopt Common Core in 2010 to be eligible for grant money under President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speculated on what effect opting out could have on how teachers are evaluated moving forward.
“This assessment is part of a bigger plan to let us know how we’re doing and where we’re going, and without that data we’re certainly at a disadvantage in knowing how those schools and those districts performed,” she said.
Under the current teacher evaluation system, students’ state scores make up 20 percent of the evaluation for a teacher; another 20 percent is based on local tests, while the bulk—60 percent—is based on observations. Teachers are then scored on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective,” and teachers who score “ineffective” twice in a row could be fired under state law.
That evaluation system is set to change however, due to education initiatives introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, through the 2015-2016 Executive Budget, which was passed in March.