Fredonia test refusal numbers significant

It was and continues to be a concern many school districts in Western New York faced, and Fredonia experienced it first-hand.

A significant number of students refused to take the grades 3 through 8 New York state exams earlier this year in the Fredonia Central School District, which had one of the higher amounts of refusals in the local area. According to Director of Instruction Joseph Reyda during a recent board of education meeting, district participation in that testing hovered around 79 percent overall for the English exam and 74 percent for the math test.

“Districts have to have a 95 percent or more participation to make adequate yearly progress,” he explained. “In the 2013-14 school year report card, we did not make this 95 percent threshold.”

That means Fredonia is not eligible for earning the distinction of being a “rewards school,” so grants associated with that classification will not be available to the district.

“We are looking at ways to open up different lines of communication with our parents and community just to explain to them how we use the assessments, what we use them for and what this means moving forward,” Reyda said.

Fredonia’s participation numbers break down to 144 students refusing to take the English exam and 180 children declining to take the math test.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said this is “an issue” that the district must tackle.

“We’ll try to continue to share with parents what we believe are the values of the test,” he added. “There’s a lot of improvements (at the state level) that need to be made … Some people are concerned about a number of things: the tying-in with the Annual Professional Performance Review, the length of testing and the Common Core. In the meantime, we’ll do the best we can with our participation numbers.”

Also during the meeting, the board approved the creation of temporary positions for the next school year, which will be funded by a $187,800 state grant that Fredonia secured for strengthening teacher and leader effectiveness and integrating more technology into the classroom.

The positions include elementary, middle and high school data specialists (stipends of $3,000 each); middle and high school data coordinators (stipends of $4,000); a technology integration coordinator to lead those positions (contractual salary); a district data leader (stipends of $1,250 per month); and K-4 and K-12 data specialists (stipends of $4,000). All positions’ responsibilities (with the exception of the newly created tech integration coordinator position) will be taken on by existing staff, namely teachers and principals.

High School Principal Todd Crandall reported the middle and high school students voted for “Billy Boulevard” to be the official name for the school’s Main Street campus access road. The winner received 117 votes, while the close runner-up, “Hillbilly Highway,” earned 104 votes.

The resignation of foreign language teacher Courtnianne Gailor for personal reasons was accepted. Gailor will leave her position on June 30.

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