Thursday, 15 August 2013 00:00
The latest chapter in the ongoing common core state standardized test controversy saw the release of the spring scores last week. This year’s state assessments were the first for New York students to measure the “common core” learning standards for grades 3-8. Across the state, 31 percent of students met (Level 3) or exceeded (Level 4) the proficiency standards in both English and math. In the Garden City Public School District, the number of students meeting or exceeding these standards was nearly double the state average, with grade 7 doing the best (ELA-76.2; Math-75.9) and grade 5 faring the worst (ELA-54.1; Math-59.5). (Grade 8 had the worst overall math score at 57.2).
Given the stellar reputation of Garden City schools, it’s no wonder the test results turned out as well as they did. But these numbers fall well short of the high expectations administrators and teachers have although Dr. Theresa Prendergast, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction feels its not quite feasible to compare this year’s results to those of last year due to a number of mitigating factors.
“Because the state has a new baseline, you really can’t compare this year to last year. It’s not really apples to apples because the standards are different, the tests were completely different in their design and the expectations,” she pointed out. “Obviously, our goal is to have all our students well prepared for the secondary experience, which is what the state is looking for in terms of college and career readiness.”
With the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding this highly contentious issue, many parents statewide have chosen to have their children opt out of the test. Dr. Prendergast revealed that although half a dozen parents in Garden City opted out, communication was the key to keeping the majority of parents on board and helping them best prepare for these marathon testing sessions.
“The majority of conversations that we had in our districts with our parents found them eager to learn more about the curriculum and the changes in the curriculum,” the superintendent said. “We’ve got very supportive parents. Really and truly what they wanted to know was what they could do to best support their kids at home. So we spent a lot of time at PTA and curriculum meetings explaining the changes in the common core so parents have a better understanding.”
With the goal being to get all the district’s students scoring at the third and fourth levels, (particularly the fifth grade), Dr. Prendergast admits that the excessive length of the exams along with test flaws found in prior tests creates pressure and frustration for the district’s children and teachers. Not to mention the high stakes involved. But that said, she accepts the fact that these standardized examinations are here to stay.
“The bottom line is it’s part of our nation’s fabric. There are opponents and proponents with regards to standardized tests. Some will say that it’s a fair and objective measure and others will say it’s not fair because it’s more like teaching to the test and it narrows the curriculum,” Dr. Prendergast said. “Since it’s part of our fabric and it’s here to stay, for me, the goal is to develop reasonable assessments that will measure academic performance and hoping that the overtesting at some point will dissipate.”