Thursday, June 28, 2007

Queens Gazette: 2 District 30 Students Earn Awards BY Richard Gentilviso...

Joseph Derosa and Maria Nava, eighthgraders, at I.S. 141, and I.S. 204 respectively, were among the recipients of Scholastic Achievement Awards given to outstanding students of District 30 schools by the Community Education Council last week.

"These are students who either excelled in outstanding academic achievement or outstanding academic progress," CEC 30 member Shing Wong said at the June meeting, held at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights.

District 30 Community Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto said the announcement by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein on May 30 that the city sill spend $80 million over five years on new battery of standardized tests beginning in September, would give the district a new periodic assessment tool that is both more advanced and will allow for what he described as "customized assessment" of student progress.

"There are no stakes attached," Composto said, in reference to the fact the new tests will not determine promotion. The new tests are however, geared to help predict how students will perform in the yearly state reading and math exams.

Produced by CTB/McGraw-Hill, which also provides the state with its standardized exams, the tests will be given to students in grades 3 through 8 in both reading and math five times during the school year, an increase from the three times per year as is currently administered.

Moreover, for the first time, high school students will be tested four times annually in reading and math as well. Plans are to expand the periodic assessment testing to include the subjects of science and social studies in a few years.

In addition to their not affecting student promotional status, the tests will not be used in decisions regarding teacher tenure or promotions, or in grading individual schools. Instead, the DOE has described the tests as a method to help identify pupils who are falling behind.

The tests are taken within a regular 45-minute class period, either online or using pencil and paper. Teachers can select from a number of questions to adapt the test to suit their own curriculum with both multiple choice or fill-in questions. Tests taken online give results that are available immediately. For traditional tests, results come back in five days.

Results from both the state ELA (English Language Arts) and math exams this year showed improvements for city students in grades 3 through 8, although Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has said too many students are still not at grade level in reading and math. Scores also do not keep up once students enter middle school.

Criticism of the new periodic testing comes from those who believe there is too much dependence on standardized tests.

"It's certainly more than any other city that I know of," Monty Neill of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing said of the five tests to be given in New York City. "We've reduced schooling to preparing for bubble tests," he said in a May 31 New York Times report.

Chancellor Klein disagrees. "I think it means more learning," he said in the same Times report.