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Teachers say Core tests fail students


KINDERHOOK–Several teachers spoke at the Ichabod Crane School Board meeting this week about their concerns over the state testing connected to the new Common Core Standards. One of them, Jennifer Rickert, a district English Language Arts teacher, said she felt the tests were “cruel and harmful” to her students.

Ms. Rickert and several of her colleagues spoke to a packed house in the Middle School cafeteria January 20. The audience of nearly 100 people, made up mostly of teachers and staff, gave Ms. Rickert a standing ovation after her remarks. She talked about how the tests were developmentally inappropriate and that students are asked to sit for a total of nine hours over several days for just the English test. “After all is said and done, we will reduce each student to a number,” she said.
Primary School teacher Melanie Moon told the board the state tests “are running our lives.” And she said that children have experienced a high level of frustration.

“I do feel that their education is suffering,” Ms. Moon told the board. She added that though she knew the board couldn’t change the testing it was important for members to know how the teachers feel. “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge,” she said.

Seventh grade math teacher Jacob Patenaude read a long, complicated math question that his students are expected to answer as part of the new curriculum. He talked about how teachers did not have access to the tests, even the ones that students have already taken, nor do teachers have time to focus on all the standards before the students take the test.

“I believe the Common Core Standards are vague, and hold unrealistic standards for students.” He said they leave teachers and students feeling defeated.

After the teachers spoke board member Susan Ramos said, “What are you asking us to do?”

Ms. Rickert said they were hoping to get the governor’s attention. She said that there are good things in Common Core Standards that she supported but “the assessments need to fair.”

“You have our support,” said Schools Superintendent George Zini, but he stressed that the district must administer the tests. “We are required by the state to give the assessments,” he said. And he said the district wants students in the district to take the test, though parents can opt out, and decline to have their children take the tests.

When asked by an audience member whether more students opting out would make a statement to state officials about the testing or if it would have a negative effect on district’s funding, Mr. Zini said, “Last year nothing happened and we had a high rate of opting out.”
Mr. Zini pointed out that there is contact information for where to send letters and emails to state legislators about the testing. Ms. Ramos said that next month was Advocacy Month in Albany and there would be a day for to talk to local representatives about education. She suggested a group of teachers attend.

Board President Anthony Welcome suggested that the teachers “beat down the doors of the people in Albany.”

Also at the board meeting this week:

•The board heard from the members of the Action Planning Committee about progress the five different groups have made in following the district’s Strategic Plan. The committees, made up of community members, students and staff, talked about changes in communications, physical space, technology, health and well-being, and student engagement. They had suggestions for the 2016 school year for the board and showed that progress that has been made in those areas
•Mr. Zini announced that the board had used the wrong numbers to calculate the Veteran’s Tax Exemption, so that the amounts for how much of an exemption veterans would receive and how much more other residents’ school taxes would go up was doubled. Mr. Zini said that the administration was reworking the numbers, and they would update the district’s website with the information. The tax exemption issue will be on the board’s agenda for the next meeting. Board member Bruce Naramore said that he would bring a motion for the district to approve the Veteran’s Tax Exemption at that meeting.
The next for meeting will be Tuesday, February 3 at 7 p.m. in the High School Library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.

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