Testing Dominates Meetings

    New York State testing dominated the discussion when the Montauk School Board met on Sept. 10 and again on Sept. 24. Although Montauk’s seventh and eighth-grade students had high scores in the English and math tests given in April, the conversation focused on other areas where parents had their children opt out of the controversial tests.

     The Montauk School had discussed eliminating the tests, which were shifted this year to the national standards of the Common Core, but the talks started too late to do so this year. When the results were published, 40 percent of Long Island students failed to pass. Montauk, however, was first among neighboring schools in seventh-grade English and first and third in those tests in the eighth grade. As in other districts, the lower grades did not do as well.

    On Tuesday, Brigid Collins, the school’s assistant principal, said she didn’t think the state Education Department should make test results public, and she criticized the media for sensationalizing them. Jack Perna, district superintendent, explained at the Sept. 10 meeting that the state had planned to make academic intervention services mandatory for students who scored at the lowest levels. (A score of 1 is well below average, 2 is below average, 3 is average or passing, and 4 is mastery.) But because, across the state, so many students received 1s or 2s, state officials have changed the passing scores.

    The numbers were overwhelming for many districts, which would not have been able to provide the intervention services, Mr. Perna said. Moreover, he said he thought the state realized that not enough time had been allotted for taking the tests and that many of the questions were poorly constructed.

    Mr. Perna, who attended the fall conference of the New York State Superintendents Council last week, said the majority of superintendents were critical of the tests. “The feeling was that everything was rushed. No one seemed to have a problem with higher standards, but the current testing was changed before there was ample professional development and materials to use in teaching,” Mr. Perna said.