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State Education answers Madrid-Waddington’s concerns over standardized tests

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MADRID – State officials say a delay in finalized curriculum standards for middle and elementary students scheduled to take new standardized tests in the spring is the fault of curriculum publishers, not the state.

A letter sent by Madrid-Waddington Central School officials to Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. last week criticized the state’s “poor communication” concerning curriculum changes that are still being modified for the test in April. While the state cannot impose a curriculum by law, the release of sponsored materials devised by a third-party publisher for the test have been delayed.

New York State Regent James C. Dawson said he exthe the delay when he visited with administrators Tuesday.

“A big part of the concern was the fact that the curriculum standards for middle schools have been delayed in scope and sequence, and we’re going to work hard to get our vendors to try to get that out as soon as possible,” Mr. Dawson said Monday.

The delay, he says, will not have a negative impact on students’ scores.

“The April tests will be state-wide. Everybody will be in the same playing field when they come to take the exams,” he said. “The tests will be graded on a cut. No district will get the scope and sequence materials ahead of any other district. Everybody will have an equal opportunity to do as well as they can.”

The tests, which are not pass or fail for the students, will be graded on a “cut,” or the students will not be graded based on what a majority did not learn.

“Since these exams are not pass-fail for the students, teachers are mostly concerned with the effect the scores will have in their evaluations,” he said.

The new standards are being implemented at the same time as the new professional performance reviews.

“Teachers have to do the best job that they can do,” said Mr. Dawson. “If they have been performing well, and continue to perform well, they do not have anything to worry about.”

Once the materials are complete, the new curriculum standards will be available online at www.engageny.org.

“We were very pleased and honored that Mr. Dawson visited our school,” said Superintendent Lynn M. Roy. “He observed two of our classrooms and he listened to our concerns. I think it was a breakdown in communication that has now been rectified.”

Ms. Roy said she “continuing to receive updates,” on changes being posted the state’s website.

“I appreciate all BOCES Superintendent Thomas Burns has done in communicating our message to Commissioner King and Deputy Commissioner of P-12 Education Ken Slentz,” she said.

William D. Gotsch, who first brought the issue up before the school board, said he was also pleased with the state’s response.

“I feel like our goal has been accomplished,” he said. “I am still concerned about what is expected of them (students). But my goal is to get through all the common core items, and getting through all the standards for this year. The state has heard our concerns and hopefully we will find out from the tests in April if they have listened.”

Mr. Gotsch said he and several colleagues will spend Christmas break developing curriculums for the tests based on the newly released material on the state’s website.

“Ideally we would like to have the curriculum by June, so that we have the summer to develop them,” he said.

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