GERMANTOWN–Nichole McCollum of BOCES Questar III presented her analysis of the 2016 Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Results to the Board of Education of the Germantown Central School District at their September 14 meeting.
Ms. McCollum is senior school improvement data analyst at BOCES. Her analysis resulted in a 78-page PowerPoint presentation, which can be found on the district’s website, www.germantowncsd.org.
Asked to analyze the analysis, Superintendent Susan Brown said Monday, “For many years we have used test results to inform instruction for students on target to achieve the test standards and for those who have a gap between their ability and the standards and need help to achieve the standard.”
In 2015 fewer than 40% of Germantown students took the tests related to the new Common Core curriculum, a protest that became known as opting out.
“Last year’s data was meaningful for those who took the test, less so for our overall mission,” said Ms. Brown.
In 2016, about 50% of the students took the tests. “I’m pleased that we have information about more of our students,” said Ms. Brown, “and it also indicates to me that what MaryEllen Elia, the state commissioner of education, has done makes a difference to parents in the district. They see the state as more responsive to their concerns, and that’s a great sign,” she said.
“The bottom line is, New York State Common Core in ELA and math are the standards that our school is supposed to use to design curriculum and instruction so that our students reach that higher standard,” said Ms. Brown, a former teacher and elementary school principal.
“But, ’multiple measures’ is a phrase we use because we never want to make large changes on a single measure,” she said. “In-class test grades, the report card, and the Common Core assessment—if applicable—are all used, as well as STAR data, which also tests math and ELA, three times a year.”
STAR tests are short standardized tests, originally developed for reading, but now used for additional subjects. With STAR the district gets data for all students, not just half of them.
“Germantown’s performance on the Common Core tests wasn’t perfect, but we come to school every day with the goal of teaching the whole child to Common Core standards. That’s the big picture,” said Ms. Brown. “We, the faculty and staff, work together to make that happen.”
Teachers also do a program analysis, based on the state tests and the Regents exams. Together teachers analyze their subject, such as high school English, or 4th-grade math. “Teachers ask themselves what they can do to improve the program,” said Ms. Brown. “There’s no such thing as perfection, but we’re always looking for improvement.”
Tammi Kellenbenz is president of the Germantown school board, the mother of two children in the district and a teacher at Catskill High School. In an email Monday Ms. Kellenbenz wrote, “As a school board member I’m looking for improvement from year to year for each group of students.”
She said that she’s “particularly interested in the group currently in the fifth grade, as these are the students who have had Common Core standards from Day One of their education.”
Ms. Kellenbenz predicted that more and more students would take the Common Core tests as they moved into high school and started taking state Regents exams.
“My biggest gripe with state testing is the timeliness of the data we receive,” she said. “Regents exams are graded and data obtained within a few days, as graduation is tied to those tests. The state test results for grades 3 to 8 are not available until after the school year ends and a new one begins.”