Fredonia to NY: Stop overreliance on testing

The Fredonia Board of Education is calling on New York state Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. and the Board of Regents to cease overreliance on standardized tests as a measure of student performance and principal/teacher effectiveness.

A resolution regarding the topic was unanimously adopted during a recent board meeting. Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said the resolution includes reasons specific to Fredonia as to why relying so much on standardized testing is actually hurting, not helping, students and teachers.

“I wanted to make sure people understand (in the resolution) that there’s a difference between rural, suburban and city schools, and obviously a school with 90 percent or better of your students graduating every year is different from a city school that might have lower than a 50 percent graduation rate, so their needs would be different,” DiFonzo explained.

According to the resolution, teacher evaluations are now, more than ever, dependent on students’ scores on tests that are not proven reliable or valid under the state’s own “smart-testing” standards.

“I think any reasonable person, if they’re getting their evaluation done and they’re getting part of their grade based on these tests, would be a little bit apprehensive,” DiFonzo said.

The resolution continues on to say a current disconnect between the state Education Department and the state legislature results in unfunded mandates to public education. It also points out some students now have to take multiple tests in the same subject area.

“The timeline imposed onto schools for the implementation of the Common Core has resulted in students being tested before the curriculum was available to teachers, and teachers having to teach and students having to learn curriculum that assumes students have been taught Common Core throughout elementary, middle and high school,” the resolution states. “Despite the fact that research recommends the use of multiple measures to gauge student performance and teacher effectiveness, the state’s growing reliance on standardized testing is adversely affecting students and educators across all spectrums, and further draining already scarce resources.”

DiFonzo made it clear Fredonia officials “do not have a problem” with the more rigorous Common Core standards, but they have taken issue with the short timeline of its rollout.

“We needed time for our teachers to digest them, critique them and perhaps more time to develop their own curriculum that they would feel comfortable with,” he added.

The Fredonia Teachers Association worked with DiFonzo to craft the resolution.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a contract renewal with Management Advisory Group of NY Inc. for the 2014-2015 school year. The company serves as a consultant to confer with district personnel regarding STAC (System to Track and Account for Children) and Medicaid forms.

The contract costs $6,685 for STAC services and $7,488 for Medicaid services. DiFonzo said that is a 3.2 percent increase.

Another contract extension was also approved, this time with Municipal Solutions Inc. for providing financial advisement services to the district, effective through January 2016.

The board entered into executive session to discuss pending negotiations with the FTA and matters regarding the employment of particular people.

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