A letter sent out by the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association questioning the wisdom of state testing was unanimously approved for sending by the Montauk School Board on Tuesday.
With the state this year shifting to the national Common Core standards, which aim to analyze whether students in grades three through eight will be prepared for college and future careers, and assist in that preparation, parents and educators are up in arms about the tests associated with the program. Statewide, fewer than half of all students passed the tests, according to results released by the New York State Education Department.
In Montauk, school board members, some teachers, and Jack Perna, the district superintendent, said that not enough time had been allotted to prepare for the tests, take them, or train teachers. They claim that the testing hampers teachers’ efforts to focus on education more broadly.
Some of the questions on the tests were ridiculous, Mr. Perna said — “almost ludicrous.” He said that students in third through fifth grades should not be made to get ready for college at such a young age. “These kids are still growing emotionally and should not be worried about college.”
The letter that the board approved is long but says that “the Montauk School Board calls on Governor Cuomo, Commissioner [John B.] King, the State Legislature, and the Board of Regents to re-examine public school accountability systems in this state, including the Annual Professional Performance Review, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment, which do not require standardized testing, that more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.”
It goes on to say that the “Montauk School Board of Education calls on the U.S. Congress and administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, to reduce the testing mandates and promote multiple forms of evidence of students’ learning and school quality in accountability.”
“Doesn’t that feel good,” Lisa Ward, a board member, said after the vote to approve the letter.
Also at the meeting, the board learned about the school’s participation in Red Ribbon Week. The national social health awareness program, started years ago to warn students about the dangers of drugs, has grown to include a unit on student inspiration, listening, kindness to others, and honesty.
A video made by Montauk students was shown to the board. It can be viewed online at montaukschool.org. Students have been given red plastic bracelets to wear to show that they pledge to be a positive influence on others, and they will take part in an assembly tomorrow afternoon.
The school’s participation during the week involved coming up with a program called Are You In? It was created by Jennifer Musser, a physical education teacher, and Chris Mandato, who teaches music. During their presentation to the board they enthused about students’ excitement over the program, reporting that students were walking around the halls asking one another and teachers, “Are you in?” They handed out bracelets to board members.
“This is incredible,” Diane Hausman, the school board president, said. “We have to show off what they’re doing.”
The board also approved a resolution hiring Brady Wilkins to teach special education for the rest of the school year.