Streams

Where Is the Money for Test Security?

Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 08:38 AM

Here's what is in the news this Thursday morning:

Back in the fall, state Education Department officials backed a series of measures that would improve the security of tests and make it more difficult for students, teachers or administrators to cheat to boost the results. The move was endorsed by the state Board of Regents, but questions lingered about which entity -- state or districts -- would cover the costs.

The answer? Apparently nobody.

Gotham Schools reports that the new state budget proposals by both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the two houses of the Legislature do not include any line items to cover the new security measures. As Gotham reports:

“The legislature said it’s obviously not a priority for them,” SED spokesman Dennis Tompkins said of the test security proposals.

But at least one legislator noted the folly of that choice:

"As more and more importance is placed on state tests, there needs to be real reform: higher quality tests, better formats, and improved test integrity,” said Senator Daniel Squadron. “The only way to improve the quality of the tests and the integrity of the scoring is to invest more dollars to move beyond oversimplified multiple choice, and to professionalize assessment.”

That was certainly the thinking back in September, following a report by a state panel that was asked to look into cheating. A series of test-security measures were suggested, including same-day testing for all districts throughout the state and certification for test proctors. The state also sought financing so schools could end the long-time practice of having classroom teachers grade their own students' Regents exams, conduct more erasure analysis and hire an independent investigator to look into allegations of cheating.

As The New York Times reported at the time:

In outlining the recommendations, John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner, and Valerie Grey, the executive deputy commissioner, wrote in a memorandum to the Board of Regents that not enough was being done to detect and deter cheating by teachers and principals, given the rising stakes of tests.

“Here in New York, as standardized test scores are increasingly utilized for school and district accountability” and in teacher and principal evaluations, they wrote, “it is imperative that those tests are not compromised.”

What will happen in Albany? Gotham reports:

Cuomo and legislators say they expect a final budget to be submitted before the April 1 deadline and they continue to negotiate behind closed doors, but it’s unlikely that funding for erasure analysis will be restored, budget experts said. Both the State and the Assembly want to push back against Cuomo’s performance-based grants and that issue is dominating these discussions, officials said.

In other news, kudos -- and thanks -- go to a Brooklyn elementary school teacher who used her lunch hour well: she saved a life, the Daily News reports.

Cassandra Byrd-Scolaro, 34, a 10-year teaching veteran who teaches fourth grade at Public School 17 Henry D. Woodworth in Williamsburg, had just ordered a chicken Caesar wrap at S&B; Restaurant at 194 Bedford Avenue when she heard a commotion: a woman was lifeless in the restroom.

Ms. Byrd-Scolaro administered C.P.R. and stabilized the apparently drug-addled woman, who was then taken away by ambulance.

The woman failed to thank the teacher, but Ms. Byrd-Scolaro's principal, Dr. Robert Marchi, was full of praise:

“To me, she represents the very best in what a teacher ought to be,” Marchi said of Byrd-Scolaro. “I can’t think of another person you’d rather have at your side in distress than this lady.”

Here's some of what's going on in education this Thursday:

The teachers' union and other activist groups are organizing demonstrations in all five boroughs to protest the school closings under the Bloomberg administration. The protesters are illustrating their complaints in Manhattan with what they call the “Bloomberg School Cemetery” with tombstones of the closed schools. In Queens they will call for eight schools to be kept open.

The protests are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Foley Square in Manhattan, at 4:30 p.m. at 65 Court Street in Brooklyn, at 5 p.m. at 118-35 Queens Boulevard in Queens, at 4 p.m. outside of Staten Island Borough Hall, and at 4 p.m. at the Bronx Borough Hall, 161st Street and Grand Concourse.

And in Harlem, parents and others from P.S. 208 Alain L. Locke and P.S. 185 John M. Langston will be at a hearing on the collocation of the fifth grades of Harlem Success Academy 2 and 3 to their building, which is already shared by four schools.

Critics of the plan say P.S. 208 and P.S. 185 "will not be able to grow and expand their programs" and the collocation "will cause the students to lose out on and limit the use of their dance room, music room, library, art room, Play Rugby program, cafeteria, gymnasium, school yard, and the resource room." The hearing and protest are at the school building, 21 West 111th Street, at 5 p.m.

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