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Standardized Tests

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Rella speaks out against standardized testing in 2015. File photo

A community and school district stalwart will be returning to his position for at least one more year, following a unanimous school board vote to extend his contract.

“I know where I’m going next year now, thank you,” Superintendent Joe Rella said to applause when the board vote to extend his contract passed at Monday’s board of education meeting. “Nowhere.”

Rella has opposed extending his contract any further than the 2016-17 school year, according to Susan Casali, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The extension came with a 2 percent pay raise, bringing Rella’s salary to $212,160 for the next school year. His health care contributions are remaining the same, with him kicking in 17 percent to his premiums.

Many Comsewogue residents as well as those within the greater Long Island and New York State areas know Rella for his vocal opposition to state testing and the Common Core Learning Standards. He has hosted or attended numerous protests and forums on the topics, and spoken against the standardized testing practices that he says are harmful to children.

The superintendent started working in Warriors country as a music teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School. Before becoming a district administrator, he served as the Comsewogue High School principal.

Stock photo

Comsewogue kids are going to get another view of their education system.

“Beyond Measure,” a documentary by director Vicki Abeles about “America’s troubled education system,” will be screened on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium, in an event hosted by TASK, Comsewogue High School’s student government. The film is a follow-up to Abeles’ 2010 documentary “Race to Nowhere,” which provided a close-up look at the pressures placed on young students in America.

“In Beyond Measure, we find a revolution brewing in public schools across the country,” according to a description on the film’s official website. “From rural Kentucky to New York City, schools that are breaking away from an outmoded, test-driven education are shaping a new vision for our classrooms.”

Comsewogue school district and its superintendent, Joe Rella, have been at the forefront of the battle against the Common Core and standardized testing, standing out as one of the strongest voices on Long Island and in New York State. In addition to appearing at local protests, the district even went as far last year as considering a proposal to refuse to administer state exams unless the state delivered more education aid and reduced the weight of student test scores on teacher and administration evaluations.

The description of “Beyond Measure” on the documentary’s website echoes some sentiments expressed by educators and parents who oppose the Common Core and state testing.

“We’re told that in order to fix what’s broken, we need to narrow our curricula, standardize our classrooms, and find new ways to measure students and teachers,” it says. “But what if these ‘fixes’ are making our schools worse? In ‘Beyond Measure,’ we set out to challenge the assumptions of our current education story.”

Screenings of the film have taken place across the United States over the past year, with more scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

“I am thrilled that our high school students are actively playing a role in exploring education policy, and look forward to their insight,” school board member Ali Gordon said in an email. “I believe that the issue of standardized testing is central to the debate about the direction of public education all over the nation, not just here. Education policies created at the federal and state level focus heavily on data collected from standardized testing, which has resulted in a huge shift away from student-centered learning.”

Tickets to attend the screening of the film at Comsewogue High School are $10 and are available online or at the door prior to the event.

For more information about the film, visit www.beyondmeasurefilm.com.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer updated the school board and audience members about the changes in Common Core Learning Standards at a meeting last week.

The Oct. 22 presentation covered upcoming state assessment changes and teacher and principal annual professional performance reviews (APPR) shifts.

According to Banzer’s presentation, as far as learning standards go, the English language arts and math common core standards have been adopted and implemented, the social studies standards have been adopted but not implemented and the science standards are only under review and have not yet been adopted or implemented.   

Several shifts are happening in the ELA and literacy, social studies and mathematic standards. The shifts in ELA and literacy are mostly focused on having students engage with the text more.

Students will have a “true balance of informational and literary texts,” according to the presentation and students will build knowledge about the world “through text rather than the teacher.”

The math changes include striking a balance between practicing and understanding math skills in the classroom.

“Both are occurring with intensity,” according to the presentation. There is also an emphasis on students “deeply understanding” math concepts. “They learn more than the trick to get the answer right. They learn the math.”

New social studies standards mirror those in ELA and literacy.

These include using informational text to support an argument to help students “develop the skills necessary for 21st century college, career and citizenship standards.”

In June 2018, a new global history and geography exam will be administered based on the new framework, and in June 2019 a new US history and government exam will follow.

For science standards, a steering committee was formed in August 2014 and a public survey is currently being developed to gather feedback on a new set of science learning standards for grades pre-kindergarten to 12. Adoption of a five-year strategic plan is anticipated in 2016.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a Common Core task force amid growing boycotts of standardized tests.

According to the governor’s website, the task force is a diverse and highly qualified group of education officials, teachers, parents and state representatives from across New York. The group will complete a review and deliver its final recommendations by the end of this year.

There are also changes to assessments, including a greater input from teachers in the test development process.

In grades three through eight, ELA tests will have fewer questions in 2015-2016. Computer based testing will also be field-tested.

Changes to APPR are also on the way.

A new education law requires districts to negotiate new annual professional performance review criteria by Nov. 15, unless the district applies for and receives a hardship waiver, which would extend its deadline.

Banzer said that Northport-East Northport has applied for and received its hardship waiver just last week. The waiver is for four months and a district can apply again for another extension, according to the presentation.

“Knowing from May to November, for many districts, to negotiate would be impossible or impractical to try,” Banzer said. “We bought ourselves some much needed time with this process.”