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RVC School District ‘Disturbed’ by State Assessments

RVC superintendents criticize recent New York State exams.

Assistant Superintendent Christopher Pelletieri. (Credit: Matthew Hogan)
Assistant Superintendent Christopher Pelletieri. (Credit: Matthew Hogan)
Rockville Centre Superintendent Dr. William Johnson and Assistant Superintendent Christopher Pelletieri both said they were “disturbed” by the results of the recent New York State assessment tests.

Johnson said at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting that the assessments themselves were problematic and didn’t actually test what the students knew, but rather what they didn’t know.

“It’s going to tell us nothing,” he said. “We can’t learn from what this data is going to show us.”

In his report, Pelletieri said that the length of the English and math exams were one of the biggest problems. Fifth-grade students were responsible for answering 72 questions over the course of three days -- a total of 540 minutes worth of testing.

“You can pass the bar [exam] in New York State by taking an exam and sitting one time for 375 minutes,” Pelletieri said, chastising the state for what he felt was excessive testing for elementary students.

The assistant superintendent said that a majority of students who took the exam “lost steam.” He said students who scored well early on fell off toward the end due to the length of the exam.

Another obstacle for students was “field questions” that were added throughout the exam, Pelletieri said.

The field questions were designed for students to answer questions off of exams from the grade ahead of them. The answers -- whether right or wrong -- were not a part of the final score, but rather just for the state to assess.

According to Pelletieri, the field questions -- like the length of the exam -- caused students to struggle.

“It kind knocks you off your feet, knocks you back a little bit,” he said. “… So you spend an inordinate amount of time on what might be a field question that’s not going to count on your overall score and you need to recover and go back on to the questions that are for your grade level.”

Pelletieri said that scoring for the exam in the past was usually consistent for all students, but this year it was “all over the place” because the questions themselves were all over the place in terms of rigor and scoring.

“I was, without a doubt, disturbed by my eight or nine days of scoring of these assessments,” he said. “... If the goal was to tell us that our kids are not college and career ready in the third grade, they spent a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of tears and a lot of effort to figure that out.”

Johnson confirmed that more than 300 students opted out of the exams.

“It is quite frankly somewhat unclear as to what the state is going to do about that,” Johnson said, adding that the results would not affect next year’s instructional program.
Fred Stapleman May 09, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Rilog, What is going on is that RVC kids are being encouraged to "opt out" of the very same tests every other district in NYS participates in. I am not aware of any other superintendant in NYS encouraging their students to opt out with the vigor Dr Johnson does. Regardless of the material on the tests (its the same for every district) Why is it that the administration in RVC takes such a strong stance against it? There are 800+ school districts in NYS not encouraging their students to opt out. What is Johnson trying to hide? Why should'nt RVC kids follow the requirements like all the other kids in NYS and see how they stack up? Why can't we have a plaque and press releases of our NYS state ranking along with the national rankings? IB is a joke...They skew the test scores,everyone passes and few colleges recognize the program. Yet they basically force kids into the program.
Rilog May 09, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Dr. Johnson having the guts to stand up and say the tests are flawed doesn't sound like he is trying to hide anything. It actually makes me glad that he is brave enough to speak up forcefully about the folly these tests that really only benefit the test makers. Have you actually seen the tests Fred or spoken to teachers, administrators and students about them? See if you can get something from the state education dept. so you can make an unbiased judgement based on fact. Until 2010, NYS put the exams on line on the NYS Education Dept website. We could all see what they were testing our children on. Since the tests began to be changed the state has kept the tests away from parents eyes. You should be asking what the state is trying to hide. By the way, my children are in elementary and middle school. They took the tests this year. They have always scored in the highest range and I am sure they will again. Still, the testing system in place now is not good for our district, Jericho, Garden City, Great Neck.....
Fred Stapleman May 09, 2013 at 02:21 PM
You should be proud of your kids. I hope they continue to do well. I have kids also in 1st grade and kindergarten so not testing yet. However the question I am asking is what is the district trying to hide? Dr Johnson is not going in any way, shape or form going to end this testing in NYS w/ his little protest. The fact that the Johnson administration is "disturbed" by the testing and feel the assessments are "problematic" and that testing shows what kids don't know rather than what they do know and is to lengthy is their opinion. That all being said right or wrong is is irrelevant as far as measuring our kids abilities against other districts in NYS based on identical testing. As I stated earlier these tests are uniform across the state. If kids in other districts are scoring well above the kids in RVC on the same test then there would seem to be a problem as all districts should be following the same core curriculum. Again why does the Johnson administration continue to boost of Southsides 4th and 22nd national rankings and bury the fact that based on identical tests given throughout the state with all the vairables taken out such as free lunch and other non-academic measures Southside in ranked 508 in NYS. Its the same test!!! If RVC is doing such a great job why does it not reflect in our students test scores as compared w/ the scholastic abilities of students in other districts. Once again the material is the same statewide. Attacking the test is simply an attempt at justifying why our kids are not performing as well as kids in other districts.
John May 10, 2013 at 07:54 AM
Sounds like Johnson and company are getting ready for poor grades! Protecting themselves for there next budget vote. What else is new?
beentheredonethat May 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Matthew, The US News and Newsweek high school rankings came out a few days ago and just in case you are wondering why no press release from the district its because we are #312 in the country in Newsweek's rankings and #117 in US News ranking (#20 in New York State). Last year we were #22 in the nation and #2 in the state. I believe they may have included test score results this year (our AP scores are below and average of 2) which may explain why we have dropped down so dramatically. Now Matthew, I don't want to tell you how to do your job but it would seem to me that you should do a story on this prior to the BOE election. Don't wait for a press release from the district. Its not coming.

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