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Educators try to address misconceptions with state tests at Kendall forum

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 2 March 2016 at 12:00 am

KENDALL – The 2016 round of NYS Grade 3-8 Assessments is just around the corner and parents in the Kendall Central School District Tuesday evening were invited to an informational forum presented by Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES on understanding standards and assessments in New York State.The district hoped that the presentation, which Monroe 2-Oreans BOCES staff has been making for its member districts, would help remove anxiety and misconceptions about new standards and the 3-8 tests.

Marijo Pearson, assistant superintendent for BOCES 2, and Bridget Harris, coordinator of the BOCES 2 MAARS program, presented information to district administrators, school board members, students and their families during the forum held in the Jr./Sr. High School Library.

Pearson noted there has been much press around the assessments as well as, “a lot of misinformation.” She explained the difference between standards – what students need to know – and curriculum – how the district will teach the standards. The four types of assessments – formative, benchmark, summative and state assessments – were also discussed.

Kendall Jr./Sr. High School Principal Carol D’Agostino said the new standards are having a positive impact on students.

“It’s a real application of understanding,” she said. “I see it coming to life in the classroom, it’s powerful.”

Pearson explained the status of the AIMHighNY survey which the NYS Education Department conducted recently to review Common Core Learning Standards and ensure those standards are right for New York’s students.

Work has just wrapped-up on analyzing the results and the process of revising standards will begin soon.

“They are looking at the standards and re-writing, fine-tuning them to make sure they are appropriate,” Pearson said. She noted the survey found ELA standards for preK-Grade 3 may be a little challenging as well as those for Math for K-Grade 4.

New standards are expected in the spring of next year and then districts will begin to re-align their curriculum documents, Pearson said.

Examples of Data Report and Analysis documents from State Assessments were explained and one parent in attendance expressed the worry she experienced when she first received her child’s NYS Education Department Score Report, saying she became anxious because she felt the results might be part of her child’s future transcript sent to colleges.

District officials in attendance and Pearson told the parent results of the Grades 3-8 Assessments are not part of a student’s transcript.

The assessments are not for graduation, Pearson explained.

“They are about where (the student) is in relationship to their peers, and help teachers learn what they need to do differently. It’s valuable for teachers,” she said.

Pearson said the state is working to make the reports better and easier to understand. She also announced the most recent changes for the 2016 Grade 3-8 Assessments.

The tests will have fewer questions and will not be timed. Students will have the time they need to complete the tests, she explained. There is also greater teacher involvement in both creating and reviewing the assessments and opportunities will be expanded for teachers to be more involved in future test development.

Finally, the state is moving to a new test vendor, Questar Assessment Inc. Questar has partnered with the State Education Department on the recent changes. Questar Assessment tests will be administered beginning in 2017, Pearson said.

In the near future, the state will release more test questions and release results before the end of the school year. Additionally, the Assessments will be completely computer-based by 2020, Pearson and Harris said.

Kendall School District Superintendent Julie Christensen said the entire presentation will be available on the school’s website (Click here).