Medina school leader vents frustration over Common Core tests

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Medina Board of Education President Chris Keller, left, and District Superintendent Jeff Evoy lead the BOE meeting on Tuesday at Wise Middle School Library.

MEDINA – The school district had 21 percent of eligible students opt out of standardized tests last week for grades 3 through 8, which was a big increase from the 2 percent that refused the test the previous year.

Board of Education President Chris Keller said there has been “a lot of healthy discussion” in the community and state-wide about the ELA and math tests and the opt out movement. Some districts in Erie County had more than half of their students refuse the tests.

Keller thanked the Medina parents and students that declined to opt out last week. (The math tests start today and continue until Friday.)

Keller teaches English at Albion and voiced his concern that tests, for 90 minutes daily over three days in a week, are too lengthy and disruptive to the school day. He said the testing could be concentrated to two days instead of three.

The tests then continue to take teachers out of their classroom in the days after the exams because the teachers have to grade them.

“I have a lot of severe concerns about the test,” Keller said.

He didn’t detail those issues because he said he is grading some of them for Albion and he signed a nondisclosure agreement. But he did say that many educational experts view the tests “as developmentally inappropriate.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature want to see more of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to student scores on the Common Core tests. Currently, 20 percent of a teacher’s score is linked to the test results. Cuomo wants to push that to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

“Politics has gotten involved in education in New York and it has gutted education,” Keller said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We have a problem right now in that kids can’t read very well, and it’s not just Albion and Medina. It’s state-wide.”

Keller said the state in recent years has put too much emphasis on testing. Rather than recognize that mistake, the state is “doubling down on testing,” Keller said.

Keller prefers the Scholastic testing materials over Pearson, a business that sells education products and services. Scholastic tests are taken on a computer and teachers have immediate access to the results and can respond to students who are struggling, Keller said.

Teachers won’t know the results of the Pearson exams, given last week and this week, for individual students until August or September.

“At that point the students have moved on to the next grade,” Keller said.