Testing under the new Common Core federal education standards hasn’t thrilled New Paltz parents. It turns out that it also hasn’t thrilled Superintendent Maria Rice either. “What did the Common Core learning standards and implementation, and the Student Learning Objectives, and the Annual Professional Performance Review look like to our students, our parents and our community? I believe that what it looked like was over-testing our children,” Rice said, during her State of the District annual report last week. “We were mandated to do so.”
State and federal mandates on education have prompted local parents — and parents statewide — to action.
In a follow-up interview, Rice elaborated on why the district is rolling back some of the tests. For instance, instead of giving both a final exam and a Regents exam at the high school, students will just take the Regents.
“Testing for testing’s sake doesn’t make any sense to us. And when you attach teachers’ quality standards with testing, sometimes there are unintended outcomes,” the superintendent said. “We truly believe that when you’re assessing a child’s learning, the purpose should be to inform the kind of instruction you’re going to do — to take a measure of where the child is.”
Several parents in the New Paltz Central School District are involved with the group Re-thinking Testing, which lobbied the state to change its testing policies on “high stakes testing” by sending back test scores to the state education commissioner.
“A lot of our parents are very concerned about the over-testing — as is our board, our staff and the administration,” she said.
Commissioner John B. King Jr. announced in late October that New York would allow for fewer standardized tests. That’s something that surprised Superintendent Rice.
“They were holding tight for so long — until the parents started revolting and started saying, ‘enough is enough.’ They were not listening to what the educators were saying,” she said. “So I think they’re starting to rethink what they’re doing.”
Rice added that she didn’t think Common Core in itself was a problem. The new learning standards raise the bar for all students nationwide. “It’s just the rate in which they were trying to enforce this to happen. I mean, we needed time to start to understand what was in there.”
According to the superintendent, one reason for duplicate testing was the requirement to stage “Student Learning Objectives” or SLOs throughout the year.
“So instead of having a pre-test and a post-test on the SLO, we’re able to use a metric from the state assessments,” she said. “So that will eliminate some of those tests.”