Standards Pose Challenge

    Eleanor Tritt, superintendent of the Amagansett School, briefed the school board Tuesday morning on a recent meeting of school superintendents  with the New York State Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King Jr.
    Dr. King, she said, advised districts to expect dramatically lower results on standardized testing, the outcome of increased standards. A number of questions, math questions in particular, are being given to students in lower grades who are not prepared for them, she explained. The superintendents asked the commissioner if he would draft a letter to parents indicating the reason behind the anticipated drop in test scores, she said, but “We don’t know if that will be forthcoming.”
    School officials, Ms. Tritt said, have been given examples from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, a consortium of 22 states to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in math and English. Ms. Tritt called an example she was given “startling,” with a greater number of correct answers to a multiple-choice question than in previous testing. Two of five choices may be correct, she said, and answers can also be partially correct. “The sample question was only [worth] one point, out of 60 or 70 questions. This is what we are going to face,” she said. “That’s why these projected results will become so much lower.”
    Potentially compounding teachers’ challenges, PARCC is one of two organizations working with the state on new assessments. The state, Ms. Tritt said, is “preparing us for these PARCC tests, but at the same time indicating that they’re not really sure they’re going to go with [them]. We may be preparing students for tests that they then decide they’re not going to give. It is of concern to everyone. We are continuing to prepare our students, but we feel this is not an approach that is in the best interests of the children.”
    The school is moving ahead with a fiber-optic upgrade for a new telephone and Internet infrastructure. Greater bandwidth, the superintendent said, will be necessary to support the testing.
    Ms. Tritt summarized the above as “a good deal of new curriculum requirements, testing requirements, [and] technology requirements. We continue to move forward in meeting those requirements, but it is a challenge.” The commissioner is aware that new mandates are adding significant costs, she noted.
    School safety remains at the forefront of discussion and planning. Ms. Tritt briefed the board on a recent safety team meeting. The police and fire departments, as well as emergency management personnel, have worked with school officials to create and revise new safety procedures and acquire additional equipment. “We will be able to coordinate all the components of that plan shortly,” the superintendent said.
    School administrators are reviewing preliminary budget estimates, she reported. Though data from the state and from BOCES are still forthcoming, Ms. Tritt estimated only minor cost increases. “We are anticipating a need for some additional part-time support in the areas of reading and special education,” she said.
    Ms. Tritt said that salaries ($3.9 million), tuition ($2.6 million), and benefits ($1.8 million) account for 82 percent of the budget. Benefit expenditures are expected to rise by $205,000. “Health insurance costs have gone up dramatically in just a few years,” she said, adding that expenditures for the employee retirement system have also dramatically risen dramatically, even as state aid is being reduced.