School Board Skeptical of New Testing Methods

After pilot study report, South Huntington School Board questions state mandated system for measuring student growth

Results of a pilot study on the state-recommended system in use to measure student growth in math and reading at South Huntington Public Schools drew skepticism of the system by board members, teachers and staff Wednesday night.

“We used to be able to send supervisors into classrooms and assess how a teacher was doing, and it was going just fine,” said board president Jim Kaden, following a presentation by Dr Jared Bloom, supervisor of technology and assessment. "We were doing fine without their help."

"Before this South Huntington teachers were working hard, doing great things, we knew how to evaluate people," agreed Dr Dave Bennardo, superintendent of schools. "Direct teacher assessment is still 60% of how we evaluate, but now we’re testing kids with an expensive method."

School systems are required to choose a method of student assessment from a state-approved list, or get their own method approved for use by the state. South Huntington has chosen to use “MAP” (Measures of Academic Progress), a system developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).

MAP's aim? To measure student growth providing 'detailed, actionable data about where each child is on their unique learning path.'

But NWEA's MAP program is costly -- upwards of 70 thousand dollars to implement, according to Bennardo. "NWEA is a for-profit company, and they charge you for it," he noted.

In order to look at what they're getting for their money, the South Huntington School Board conducted a pilot program, examining results for a group of students that got the "full" MAP treatment, against another group that did not.

Variables included the number of progress tests during the year and the amount of school staff training in how to use the data that is produced from the testing.

As presented by Bloom, student growth in math skills, oral reading fluency and reading was only marginally better for those who got the full NWEA/MAP treatment.

Called on to provide comments on the NWEA/MAP system, teachers' association president Dennis Callahan noted an additional concern -- the design of the evaluation can push students to forward to a point at which they cannot succeed -- which can cause frustration.

"The test is driving them to the point of frustration sometimes," agreed Bennardo.

But South Huntington has to use some state approved method. "We could pick another assessment off the state approved list," he said. "We don't have to use NWEA -- but you have to pick something."

Still, the pilot study offered the board a way to tell whether NWEA's the best way to go, Bennardo concluded. “The board wanted to know more about what it is and how it’s going,” he said.

“They had some reasonable questions, including is it worth what we spend for it. We’ll be monitoring it throughout the year.”

Jim R. October 12, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Bennardo is already doing a great job. Just wait and see S. Huntington residents.. you won't be disappointed!
John Corey October 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Perhaps you have not been to a Board Meeting recently. The Board has been very critical of Albany. This week in particular, the comments criticizing the imposed mandates and regulations along with the tax cap were made throughout the meeting. The minutes are publicly accessible so those who can't come can be informed.
Carl J October 13, 2012 at 01:39 AM
This is a terrible piece of journalism. NWEA is a non-profit organization. They don't operate in the red, but do spend a significant amount of money to remain technologically relevant. They pioneered adaptive testing, which, unlike the pencil and paper standardized testing of old, actually presents questions to a student based on their assessed skill level. If used correctly, it can be used to target specific areas where a student needs help and provide detailed breakdowns of student performance. It sounds like this school board is balking at investing in technology, which is a shame because technology is what will enable our kids to compete in the 21st century.
Ron October 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Technology and constant testing do not teach children how to read and write-teachers left alone to teach in the classroom do that. Simply read students work on hallway bulletin boards and you will see that we as a society need to wake up before it is too late.NYSED,administrators and parents need to accept they do not know what is best for each child's education....that is the job of a professional-the teacher.
Heather Vazquez October 16, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I'm with Bill L. I work in a school and see 1st hand the stress that is put on the teachers. Plus with the budget cuts we now have less teachers which means a average of about 32 kids in a class. That's too much. More of a strain on the teacher, and less personal attention to the students. In the end this will affect the students in a negative way. It's only the 2nd week of October and moral is way down. Everyone is so stressed out.


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