Springtime means many things in upstate New York. In the education world, one of the things it means is that it is time for NYS Assessments to be given to students in 3rd through 8th grades. Last school year, we received a Focus District designation from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and we began this school year with a strategic plan for renovating many of our instructional practices. We are excited about the progress we believe we have made and one of the ways to help measure this progress is an annual comparison on English language arts (ELA), math and science assessments.
We use this data in three important ways. First, and most importantly, there is some detailed information that comes back to us from these assessments that helps the next year’s teacher understand your child’s progress towards the learning standards. This helps us to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. Second, we compare our data year-to-year to see where our instructional practices need bolstering and where we think we have made improvements. This can help us drive professional development for our teachers and gives us an idea of how best to use resources. Third, we compare ourselves to the region. This helps determine if other schools like ours are outperforming us, so we can visit and learn from them.
There have been reasons that some people were upset with the NYSED math and ELA assessments, which led some parents to refuse to have their child participate. The main factors that led to parental refusal were the use of the assessments by NYSED to evaluate teachers, the tests being longer than necessary and the timed nature of the tests, which put some pressure on students, who were not able to use some of the most effective strategies that they learned from their teachers. There have been changes and improvements in all these areas. The assessments will not be used in the evaluation of teachers as they had been in the past. Also, the assessments themselves have been shortened and students will be given the time they need to finish the tests, which should significantly reduce the artificial feeling of pressure that some students had.
Given these changes and our status as a Focus District, I’m asking for all parents to have their students take the grades 3-8 math and ELA assessments this spring. If you were a parent who previously had your child refuse to take these assessments, I hope that you reconsider that decision for this year. Having as close to 100% participation as possible is the best way for us to use our data to help the academic program. I encourage you to reach out to me, or your building principal, if you have questions about any of this but most importantly, I want to thank you for your ongoing support of the educational system at Newark CSD.