Local schools ready students for new state tests

Local elementary school students will take new state tests starting next week, and educators say they’ll be tougher than tests students have seen in the past.

New York and most other states will eventually give students tests based on new Common Core Learning Standards.

State education officials say people should expect the scores to be lower than those earned on previous state tests.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety among teachers and raised anxiety among students and parents as well,” Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Robert DeLilli said.

Testing in grades three through eight will begin with an English language arts assessment Tuesday, followed by a mathematics assessment beginning April 24. A grade four science assessment will begin May 22.

Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said Friday the higher standards are new for everyone.

“They’re saying we need to raise the bar,” he said, referring to state and national education leaders.

Vanyo added, “I’m trying to talk to teachers, and I want them to continue to do the best they can, and also the students.

“I want people to know if we don’t score as well as we like, we’re going to have to make changes,” Vanyo said. “We’re not going to ignore it.”

Ray Colucciello, the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District’s interim superintendent, said national education officials devised the new testing after reviewing how students perform worldwide and how different states test their students.

“The United States decided it would have a common core of standards that allows us to compete internationally,” Colucciello said.

He said the new standards aim to make students more educated when they are younger.

“It’s all important to have high standards by third grade,” Colucciello said.

The state teachers union, New York State United Teachers, has been critical of the new testing, saying students will be tested on material they haven’t been taught.

“Done right, the Common Core has the potential to enrich and expand student learning,” NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said in a news release. “But the state isn’t doing it right, and students and teachers are going to pay the price. No experienced teacher would test their students on material before it’s been taught, but teachers will be required to do that.”

The union says while the standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, New York is one of a few states testing students on the Common Core this year.

Most states are set to begin Common Core testing in 2014, the union says, which is the year recommended by the federal government.

The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, in a report posted on its website in March, said teachers may fear the anticipated drop in test scores could harm teachers’ chances of receiving a good rating under the new Annual Professional Performance Review.

However, BOCES reports, the state is confident all educators will have a fair chance to do well regardless of the changes in testing.

“[The state Education Department] cautions parents and teachers that the drop in the number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a failure on the part of the student to learn or the teacher to teach,” according to the BOCES report.

BOCES officials say the new Common Core Standards require schools to raise standards and expectations in the classroom.

“Common Core is poised to … position our kids for a brighter future,” HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel said in the report.

Wheelerville Union Free School District Superintendent Richard Ruberti said in some ways, the pattern of testing hasn’t changed.

“We’ve had, for years, testing from ELA to math,” he said Friday. “This time, they’re bringing in new national standards most states have adopted.”

DeLilli said the Common Core Standards are part of the evolution of education.

“It’s not going away,” he said. “The Common Core has been adopted. It’s important we go down that path.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

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