Friday, December 20, 2013

Wynantskill BOE passes High Stakes Testing Resolution

On December 19, 2013 the Wynantskill Board of Education passed a resolution against High Stakes Testing. The vote was not unanimous.

3 Yay ~ Andrea Paone, Ann Marsh & Andrew Lanesey 

WHEREAS, The Wynantskill Union Free School District is dedicated to provide opportunities for all students to reach their fullest potential; empower all to achieve personal excellence and encourage a life-long love of learning: and

WHEREAS, the decline in state support for public schools has forced our District to reduce programs and limited our ability to implement the new programs mandated by the state such as the Common Core Standards, creating an uneven rollout of the standards among school districts around the state; and

WHEREAS, while the implementation of Common Core will ultimately help students, teachers, and teaching and learning, the growing reliance on and misalignment of standardized testing is eroding student learning time, narrowing the curriculum, and jeopardizing the rich, meaningful education our students need and deserve; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that research recommends the use of multiple measures to gauge student performance and teacher effectiveness, the state’s growing reliance on standardized testing is adversely affecting students across all spectrums, as well as the morale of our educators and further draining already scarce resources; and

WHEREAS, the federal elementary and secondary education act’s testing policies fail to appropriately accommodate the unique needs of students with disabilities and English language learners in assessing their learning, resulting in test scores that do not accurately represent a true measure of the contributions of teachers and schools; and

WHEREAS, it is time for policymakers to recalibrate the number, duration, and appropriate use of standardized tests so that we can refocus our efforts on student learning; now therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we call upon the Commissioner of Education, the NYS Board of Regents, and other policymakers to reduce the use of and over-reliance on standardized testing; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that we call upon the U.S. Congress and the Administration to reduce federal testing mandates and support the role of and focus on multiple measures of student learning and school quality in accountability systems.

The Wynantskill community was also  delivered with the good news that Lee Bordick will continue on as Superintendent of the district for an additional two years, which starts as of January 1, 2014. It was a good night. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wynantskill District Operation Study Presentation (Video Included)

After several weeks of meeting with parents, teachers, staff and community members of the Wynantskill School District the results of the District Operation Study were presented Thursday night November 14. The Board of Education members present included Board President, Andrea Paone, Board Vice President, Ann Marsh, Board member and Andrew Lanesey; missing from the meeting were Board members Christina Curran and Matt Hug. This study was the product of a very very very difficult 2012-2013 school year under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Henkel, who has since resigned.
The approval of this study at a cost not to exceed $7,500, by the Wynantskill Board of Education, was to be completed under the direction of experienced respected education professional Mike Marcelle (BOE Hires Consultant). This study came after many members of the school community made demands for an outside impartial consultant to investigate the practices of the superintendent, Dr. Lisa Henkel. However, after her sudden resignation, it then became an opportunity for Mike to examine how the district operated, as a whole, and provide suggestions for improvements to help the district and community to heal and to move forward.
Below are links to video of the presentation.  
  • Wynantskill UFSD District Operation Study (Part 2)  Parent- Meredith Gavin and Teacher Union President Matt Lutz present. Mike Marcelle wrapped up the presentation with his recommendations and then opened up the floor for public questions and comments. The meeting was closed out after Board President, Andrea Paone and  Interim Superintendent/Principal, Lee Bordick spoke.
The presentation was extremely honest. The Wynantskill Board  of Education and the community, which consists of teachers, staff, parents and taxpayers, must rebuild the trust between them and work together to take these recommendations and turn them into actions to get results. This presentation is one of many steps  in moving in the right direction, the direction that is best for what this is all about- the kids! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Release and Settlement Agreement b/t Dr. Lisa Henkel and the Wynantskill UFSD

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New administration. New curriculum. New teachers. What does our school look like now?

Please add your questions to be presented to the administration.  Communication has been lacking in the past, let’s give our new administrators the opportunity to hear our concerns and present us with the information we, as parents and the community, need to know. 

Common Core Implementation.
  • Will the administration publish, as soon as possible, a calendar listing the dates and times of all student assessments? State assessments, reading assessments, bench mark exams – all testing.
  • Can the administration ascertain and report back to parents as to what level the new Common Core State Standards have been tested so as we can be assured of their effectiveness? Are we privy to the results of these longitudinal studies or pilot programs as to assuage our fears of yet another expensive curricular mandate that will yield few long term results?
  • Will each teacher communicate to parents exactly how much time and how often children participate in practice tests? And is this decided by the teacher or the administration?
  • Will each teacher communicate to parents how they plan to adopt Common Core in to their individual curriculum? 
  • What steps will the administration be taking to support teachers implementing new curriculum(s)? Can teachers expect to see more classroom support? Will there be additional training? Will there be lesson sharing or collaboration with educators from other schools? Can we get support from student teachers?
  • Will the administration please communicate to the community how much money is being spent on testing and test prep materials?
  • Will the administration please communicate to the community how much is being spent on hardware, software and infrastructure changes to accommodate testing mandates?
  • Will the administration communicate to the community exactly how our teachers will be evaluated under the new curriculum and exactly what impact test scores have on teachers at GD?
[added later] 
  • How does the administration see Common Core integrating with special education plans?   
  • If teachers are being removed from the classroom during the school day for training purposes parents should be notified exactly when and for how long.
  • It was rumored that last year was a “practice year” implementing Common Core, APPR and the new more rigorous test format and teacher evaluation system, and that test scores would not play a part in teacher assessments.  Were last years test scores used to evaluate teachers at Gardner Dickinson? Were any teachers deemed in need of improvement based on test scores?
Data Mining.
  • A component of Common Core is the creation of student learning databases. What specific information is contributed for a GD student? 
  • What organization will maintain the database(s) containing information pertaining to GD students? 
  • With whom will these organizations be permitted to share or sell this information?  For instance, inBloom, maintained primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, states on its FAQ page : “districts who use inBloom in conjunction with commercial applications and services may choose to disclose certain student information to those third-party providers”. Will GD administration give permission to share or sell information gathered on GD students to private companies? If not how will this be prevented from happening? 
  • What data mining software is currently employed at GD and what company provides it? 
  • Will parents be able to opt their child out of this process? If so please provide the steps necessary.
State Testing Refusal.
  • It is understood that the school must present each child with the state test. What will be the procedure when a child indicates that they are refusing the test? 
  • How will students receiving AIS be impacted if they refuse to take the state tests? 
  • What, if any, programs or classes are offered on the basis of state assessment scores? Will GD consider other factors for participation in these programs if a student refuses the exams? 
[added later]
  • How will resources supplied to special education students be impacted if the student refused to take state tests?
  • Could a child be removed from advanced placement classes based on test scores?
Physical activity, recess.
  • Is the administration well versed in the physical, cognitive and social emotional benefits of daily recess? 
  • Will the administration communicate to parents their policy regarding recess for each grade? 
  • Will the physical education teachers communicate to the parents how gym classes will be conducted as to maximize participation?
Field Trips and out of the classroom experiences.
  • What role does the administration feel field trips play in each grades curriculum and what does the administration do to support that? 
  • As parents what can we do to encourage GD to take part in the activities, experiences and performances our area offers? 
  • A fear under the Common Core is the narrowing of curriculum. How can parents help in providing meaningful out of the classroom experiences? Would it be possible for the faculty or administration to present ideas for each grade level that would help parents find appropriate projects or activities to complement their child’s curriculum? Is this something that we could look to student teachers for?
Again, please add your questions to be presented to the administration.  Communication has been lacking in the past, let’s give our new administrators the opportunity to hear our concerns and present us with the information we, as parents and the community, need to know.