On Opting Out of ELA Tests in Kingston.

OptOut

There have been many questions and confusion on ‘opting out’ of the ELA State tests at the GW Elementary School amongst parents in understanding the impact of the decision in the Kingston City School District.

To find out more, we attended the DWPC (District Wide Parent Council) yesterday (4/3/14) where by Dr. Paul Padalino and BOE liaison Nora Scherer were present.

The DWPC meets on the first Thursday of each month at 9:30am at Crown Street in Kingston and is open to the public.

Here are some of the facts as we understand them today. If you have more information or wish to clarify any aspect of what is here, we welcome your input. Please share your thoughts and observations by writing Rebecca Martin-Grenadier, PTO President at:  gwlovesmontessori@gmail.com

You can also write to the Kingston Board of Education or Superintendent Dr. Paul Padalino if you have any specific questions on tests and Kingston.

 

1. The Kingston City School District is currently a ‘Focus’ school district.

In other words, according to the linked source, ‘Focus Schools’  “rank among the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in the state, having the  lowest consistently performing subgroups for statewide assessments in Reading and Mathematics (Combined) over three years.”

The next level down is classified as a district “In Need of Improvement“, incurring more State oversight and direction of how Title I monies are used.

We are not clear at this time for how long the Kingston City School District has been a “Focus” school district.

 

2. Opting Out of State ELA tests (English Language Arts)

The requirement is that 95% of students in each building where the district tests are to be tested.

a) In a “Focus” school district, when a Title I school falls below the 95% attendance threshold, the school then dips lower and is classified as “In Need of Improvement” by the State, where they may impose more say on how Title I money is spent at that particular school.

b) When a school that is not classified as a Title I school but is still part of a ‘Focus’ school district that falls below the 95% threshold,  there is more scrutiny by the State leading to additional training sessions etc. for teachers at that particular school.

Quite a number of families opted out in Kingston, and as we understand it, one of our schools in the district actually fell below the attendance threshold. That’s unprecedented. 

The 95% threshold was set up originally to provide an attendance record for tests. It hadn’t taken into consideration an ‘opting out’ measure. Given the large (and probably unprecedented)  number of schools who have opted out in NYS this year, it will challenge the State’s capacity to follow-up on every building that is below their attendance threshold.

“Is there anything positive to be said about the State becoming more involved in schools who fall below the 95% attendance requirement on tests?” asked one parent in attendance.   According to Dr. Padalino, when the State gets involved in this way, they can visit a school and point out problems that perhaps the Superintendent and Principal cannot for reasons that are sensitive and/or political in nature.

A school report will be available on the district’s website in the Fall of 2014.

 

3. High Stakes Vs. Not High Stakes?

Grades 3 – 8

In this case, the State test is NOT a high stakes test for children in grades 3 – 8. That means, that the results will not show up on their transcripts. A child who doesn’t perform well is not penalized either by being held back, etc.

For this age group, the district says that the tests are used for information so to provide ‘more help as a consequence’ to those students in need.

On a personal note: Knowing how wonderful our teachers are at the GW Elementary School, I couldn’t help but wonder what these tests would tell them about any of their students that they didn’t already know.  Therefore, from this early perspective, it’s hard for me to justify so many hours of preparation, practice and test taking. 

Look at page 4 of this DOCUMENT to learn more on what the Common Core ELA and Math Tests consist of.

Grades 9 – 12

Here, the tests are ‘High Stake” and recorded in the students transcripts.

 

4. More on State Tests in the KCSD.

a) In 2001, the Kingston City School District began giving State tests to grades 3-8. Prior to, tests began in 4th Grade.

b) Grades 4-8 have been tested in this capacity for the past 25 years.

c) Regents have been performed since the late 1800’s.

 

5. Common Core Standards and Modules.

The Kingston City School District says that although Common Core Standards were adopted by the State and used Statewide, how it is taught is up to the district.  “Modules” were created by the State in an effort to make teaching the Common Core easier which instead, ended up being overwhelming for all.

The KCSD has ‘adapted’ curriculum (to the tune of $300,000 spent by the district). Although the items that are covered are ‘set’, according to Dr. Padalino, how a teacher chooses to teach is up to them in tandem with a ‘pacing guide’ so to keep them on schedule.