Streams

State Tests Begin Tuesday, but Some Students Will Sit Them Out

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 08:00 AM

Public school students throughout the city will be sitting down on Tuesday for the first of a series of federally mandated tests whose results will be influential in everything from students' promotions to teachers' tenure.

The English Language Arts exams for third- to eighth-grade students takes place over the next three days -- the culmination of weeks, if not months, of preparation in many schools. They will be followed next week by the state math tests for those grades.

But a tiny but determined group of parents is opting out of the tests for their children, in protests over the extraordinary weight put on the test results, their belief that too much emphasis is put on test preparation, or their concern that testing is pushing the public school system closer to a corporate school system, both SchoolBook and Gotham Schools reported on Monday.

Other parents said they considered opting out but were not certain of the consequences for either their child or the school.

Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said Monday in an e-mail to SchoolBook that opting out of tests could have consequences for schools. He said that if fewer than 95 percent of students in a school, or of one or more subgroups of students -- Hispanic, students with disabilities, limited English proficiency -- takes the assessments, which are a federal requirement, the school may receive the federal designation of "in need of improvement," which could put it in jeopardy. As Mr. Dunn explains: "The participation rate requirement keeps schools from selectively eliminating students (e.g. students with disabilities or limited English proficiency) from taking an assessment" to skew scores.

But if comments to the SchoolBook story are any indication, the small, hardy group of test protesters has fans, some of whom commended them for leading the way in a push back against the testing trend. One, Molly Sackler, wrote:

Every parent in the nyc school system owes these courageous, loving parents a debt of gratitude. I hope this is the beginning of many more concerned families standing up for what they know in their hearts to be right -- an education that honours and encourages the curiosity, imagination, and individuality of each child.

Good luck to all the students, teachers and schools who will be taking these tests over the next couple of weeks.

In his Gotham column on Tuesday in The New York Times, Michael Powell writes about what happens to schools that are slated for closing, chronicling the slow fading away of services, students and hope as the schools prepare to disappear.

The Bloomberg administration long ago determined that its education revolution would occur at the edge of an ax. So far, officials have closed 140 schools, which they routinely describe as failing, and replaced them with smaller schools and charters, which they routinely describe as making “historic gains.”

Perhaps this is so. But for tens of thousands of children who live in the purgatory of schools marked for closing, boasts of an education revolution bring little comfort.

A parent and a student at Legacy School for Integrated Studies in Manhattan, an F school with 350 students, lament what has happened since the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close the school this year. The parent, Juan Pagan, who heads the parent association, said the social worker has been let go. “I want to know how you can shrink a school while so many kids are still inside of it,” he said.

The string of disturbing arrests for sexual misconduct by school personnel has now been extended, this time to include a private school teacher. As Jenny Anderson reports in The New York Times, a math teacher at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx who was fired last year after he was accused of sexual misconduct with a teenage student was arrested Monday.

The former teacher, Richard Hovan, 30, surrendered to the authorities in the morning and pleaded not guilty to charges that he had oral sex with the girl, once in April 2011 and again in May 2011, and endangered the welfare of a child. He was released on $25,000 bond.

In a letter e-mailed to Riverdale parents on Monday morning, Dominic A. A. Randolph, the head of school, called the event “troubling” and told them that the private school reported Mr. Hovan to the authorities last year and fired him in June 2011.

Mr. Hovan now lives in Brooklyn and works as a private tutor. His lawyer, Vinoo Varghese, said Mr. Hovan "had no prior arrest record, was innocent and looked forward to clearing his name."

And in case you missed it Monday, Jenny Anderson had a pretty cool article in The Times about a pretty cool school in downtown Manhattan, the Blue School.

The school started six years ago as a play group, The Times reports, and:

From the beginning, the founders wanted to incorporate scientific research about childhood development into the classroom. Having rapidly grown to more than 200 students in preschool through third grade, the school has become a kind of national laboratory for integrating cognitive neuroscience and cutting-edge educational theory into curriculum, professional development and school design.

“Schools were not applying this new neurological science out there to how we teach children,” said Lindsey Russo, whose unusual title, director of curriculum documentation and research, hints at how seriously the Blue School takes this mission. “Our aim is to take those research tools and adapt them to what we do in the school.”

And pretty extraordinary news drifted out of Minneapolis on Monday, where the national high school chess championship was held: I.S. 318 Eugenio Maria de Hostos in Williamsburg, Brooklyn -- a middle school! -- took home the top trophy, as SchoolBook reported. We are looking forward to seeing and publishing photos of the team's glory, which already includes dozens of trophies and even a new documentary, "Brooklyn Castle." Congratulations, I.S. 318!

Gotham Schools' Rise & Shine post has a more complete roundup of what is in the news on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, some of the candidates for mayor -- the public advocate, Bill de Blasio; the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer; and the former city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr. -- will join education leaders from the Working Group on School Transformation "to release a report on Mayor Bloomberg’s school closure policy and recommend alternatives." The breakfast forum begins at 9:30 a.m. at New York University’s Kimball Hall Lounge.

The annual Carol Gresser Forum Lecture featuring the United Federation of Teachers president, Michael Mulgrew, is scheduled for 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Bent Hall on the St. John's University campus in Queens. "The forum is open to the public and will accommodate a question & answer session at the conclusion of Mr. Mulgrew’s lecture for those who wish to participate," a news release says.

At 2:30 p.m., parents and others will protest the proposed cuts to child care and after school programs in the mayor's executive budget with a news conference at City Hall and a rally in City Hall Park. The rally is organized by the Campaign for Children.

A new group, known as PACE -- the Parents' Alliance for Citywide Education -- will hold its Spring Parents' Forum about New York City's Citywide gifted & talented elementary schools -- “The Parents' Perspective on Citywide G&T; Education” -- from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at P.S. 20 Anna Silver, 166 Essex Street at Houston in Manhattan.

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