Not end of world if higher standards bring lower test scores
The State Education Department is warning parents and teachers that the scores on this year’s state assessments in grades 3-8 English Language Arts and math could be dramatically lower than last year. That’s because the 2013 tests reflect the tougher learning standards of the Common Core Learning Standards. The State Education Department is basing its forecast on test results seen in other states, such as Kentucky where scores dropped 46 percent from the previous year.
It’s understandable that we feel disappointed when we see lower scores, but it should be expected because of the higher educational goals built into Common Core.
On the other hand, maybe we should appreciate this as a wake-up call for our students’ sake. They are the ones that must build a life on the educational framework we provide in our schools. Common Core was designed to strengthen the framework and position our kids for a brighter future.
State Education Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz pointed out that evidence of fewer students meeting or exceeding grade-level Common Core expectations is “necessary if we are to be transparent and honest about what our students know and can do as they progress toward college and career readiness.”
That is the crux of the matter. We are conditioned to view lower scores as failure. We don’t like to think that we are less than OK in any way, including education. In fact, our rapidly progressing world will not slow down for an education system that lags behind, and our kids pay the price.
So welcome Common Core into the mix. The initiative, being implemented in 44 states, is a starting point to ensure that our students graduate equipped to succeed on whatever path they choose, whether it is college, vocational training, the military or a job.
This will be challenging, because the learning standards are higher and emphasize critical thinking and communication skills beyond simple memorization of facts. However, this is what our kids need to succeed in the world beyond high school.
This will be hard, because all change is hard, and requires everyone — teachers, students, parents, principals — to get past a very natural fear of change to embrace a new model. But the results will be measured in success stories from our graduates.
This may be exasperating, because right off the bat, lower test scores this year will shine a light on where we are not OK, not yet. But that’s not a bad thing. It establishes a baseline for improvement and offers an opportunity to thoroughly prepare students for their future, the ultimate goal of education.
The writer is district superintendent for Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES.
To help disabled, BNI needs Access to Home $$
The agency I work for in Schenectady, Better Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI) was denied, for the second year in a row, a New York State Homes and Community Renewal grant identified as Access to Home. [This is] a grant that provides the financial means for work to be done on the home of a disabled person with limited financial income, allowing them to remain as an occupant and not have to enter a nursing home at a cost of $8,000 to $9,000 per month.
New York state funding of the Access to Home program this year was limited to $3.47 million for the entire state; an average grant of $200,000 would mean approximately 18 agencies were funded for fiscal year 2013. Where is the logic and good financial sense in funding this program at a little over $3 million?
BNI has had prior Access to Home program grant funding and it is the most rewarding work we do as a not-for-profit agency. How do I explain to a 37-year-old lady who has recently had both legs amputated that I do not have the financial means to build an exterior ramp that will allow her to exit her home? Or advise the mother who called me last week requesting we install a bathroom door that will allow her wheelchair-bound son the means to use the bath toilet facility so she will not have to empty and clean the Port-a-Potty that he has to use in the hallway, which she has been doing for over a year? We receive these calls daily and it is very bothersome to me that we cannot respond.
I appeal to all who represent us, please appropriate/budget the financial means to allow this work to be done for our disabled citizens of this state.
The writer is executive director of BNI.
Family Court vacancy has gone on far too long
The Schenectady County League of Women Voters is very concerned about the vacancy in the Schenectady County Family Court. The county has a very high volume of cases and has been on the proposed list to receive a third judge. Currently, there is only one sitting judge because of Judge [Christine] Clark’s election to the Supreme Court.
Although there are visiting judges and judicial hearing officers assigned to cover the caseload, there is no consistency in handling the individual cases. Children and families in great need find their cases delayed rather than resolved.
Many League members have observed the courts over the years and have developed a direct knowledge of the desperate situations of these cases. They see the need for a quick, thoughtful resolution in Family Court action.
We strongly urge the governor to expedite the process of appointing a judge to fill the vacancy in the Schenectady County Family Court for the sake of the children and families involved.
The writer leads the Schenectady LWV’s Steering Committee.
This water district’s fee for hookup way too high
Residents of this water district should be up in arms at what the town is charging some people to hook up to its water. According to the town’s website, District 2’s hookup fee is $397. Information obtained by a phone call to the town informed me that Extension 14’s [Goode Street] fee is $9,100 — thousands of dollars higher than any other water district in the town!
[Regarding the] history of this extension: Water was needed for the new Town Hall. Residents involved were petitioned twice to see if they wanted this water district. Twice these residents voted no, many thinking the water district would promote building in an area that believed the town of Ballston’s motto, “A Farm First Community.”
The town decided to go against these residents and created Extension 14. During town meetings discussing the extension, residents were told the extension would not promote building; curb boxes would only be installed at existing houses, not vacant land. Costs would be divided among the residents who wanted to hook up. Years later, more existing homes and a 21-house development have hooked up. The water district has promoted building in a farming community and the town is still charging $9,100 for a hookup.
The town needs to recalculate this fee and the residents who paid this extraordinarily high fee deserve compensation and an apology from the “Farms First” town of Ballston.
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