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Farmingdale Talks Curriculum, Assessments

Student assessment, achievement, and the constantly shifting climate of education in general in New York State was the focus of Wednesday’s meeting of the Farmingdale Board of Education, and as could be expected, parent reaction to these occasionally radical changes were mixed at best.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Joan Ripley gave a presentation on the new assessments that are being given to Farmingdale students in the 2013-2014 school year. At the core of the discussion was what the administration is looking at in terms of student performance as the district continues to transition to the Common Core Learning Standards, and what the district is doing with that information to improve the overall student learning experience.

“We want to have a ‘growth’ mindset,” Ripley said. “We really believe that intelligence and skills can improve by effort over time...intelligence is not fixed. Students, teachers, and all of us can continue to learn and grow, and it’s important to think about the data that we collect in order to help facilitate this. That’s really the bottom line.”

Ripley noted that the district’s continually-evolving efforts to glean assessment information out of students as they adapt to the Common Core will enable teachers to target where children may be struggling and give them the assistance they need to succeed in the new and vastly different educational landscape in New York.

“What we ask ourselves is, what do the new assessments tell us about our students?” she said. “But more importantly, what are we doing to help students grow? You can’t tell a child to try hard without giving them strategies and supporting their efforts. That’s what we’re trying to get better at...giving feedback and supporting their efforts at growing and learning.”

Ripley’s presentation focused on areas of the curriculum among high school and elementary school students where children had run into difficulty, and how additional support could be given in order to help address these difficulties so that students could improve.

However, the presentation was cold comfort to many parents in the audience, many of who are opposed to New York State’s adoption of the Common Core and the numerous mandatory student and teacher assessment tests that have come along with them; one mother presented the Board of Education with a petition singed by over 300 community members asking the Board to adopt a resolution stating their desire to opt out of the assessment testing, which parents say is unduly stressful for kids and takes away from actual classroom learning time.

But, the Board refused to adopt such a resolution, with Board Vice President Steve Wilson stating that such a resolution would “have no teeth,” due to the fact that the testing is currently mandated by New York State law.

“We are required to hold this testing, so passing a resolution like this would have no meaning,” he said. “However, people in Albany are listening to your protests, and people are making their voices heard. Things are changing...it will just take time.”

Superintendent of Schools John Lorentz also announced the retirement of Northside Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Craig Garavuso.

“Liz will be completing her 30th year of education this year,” he said. “We want to thank her for her service and wish her the best on her retirement.”