Weekly Feature



2018-01-11 / Education

Cleve Hill pilot program aimed at increasing participation in state testing

by ALAN RIZZO
Reporter

This spring, students at Cleveland Hill Middle School will be given a choice. If they agree to take state assessments in math and science, they will have the chance to be exempt from final exams in those subjects.

The incentive is part of a pilot program that educators in the district are trying this year, in response to a growing number of students who are opting out of state tests.

Middle school Principal Andrea Kersten told Board of Education members last week that student participation in math assessments for 2016-17 decreased as grade level increased, from roughly 91 percent participation among third-grade students to about 75 percent among eighth-grade students. The percentages were nearly identical for English language arts, and Kersten said the drops are a result of decisions made by students, not parents.

“What we noticed is at the middle school level, it truly seemed to be a student movement,” she said. “Not so much letters from parents ahead of time, but students, the day of the assessment, coming to us and saying, ‘I’m not taking the assessment,’ or, ‘My friend’s not taking it, so I’m not going to take it.’”

Kersten said that in interviews, students said they were opting out because they felt the tests were too difficult but said they would take them if it meant being exempt from a final exam.

“It sent us the message that these assessments, they need to be valuable for students,” Kersten said, also arguing that assessments are important in preparing middle-schoolers for Regents testing in high school. “We know from some data that [Daryl Janus, director of curriculum and instruction] has pulled that there is a correlation between student refusal to take state assessments and performance on Regents exams.”

According to Kersten, the pilot would affect math assessments in sixth through eighth grades and science assessments in eighth grade.

Participating students would take assessments in those subjects and also complete a project or long-term assignment that would culminate in a presentation, video, portfolio of work, or other final product.

Students would then receive a composite score and would be exempt from taking the final exam in a given subject if they receive a passing grade.

Students who wish to improve the test portion of their composite score would still be able to take a final exam in June.

Kersten said the pilot program was created with input from curriculum leaders and parent representatives, and is meant to reduce the amount of testing students go through while improving the quality of data the district receives.

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved a new combined soccer program for 2018-19 that will be shared with the Depew School District.

Already approved by Depew, the program will begin in the fall if approved this month by New York State Section VI Soccer and will include junior varsity and varsity teams for boys and girls.

Approximately 50 Cleveland Hill students have shown interest in the combined program, which would save Depew’s soccer program. That program has been suffering from declining participation.

The board will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, in the community room of the district offices, 105 Mapleview Road.

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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