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No Grades, Too Much Time on State Testing

SCHOHARIE -  New standards, tougher tests and a debate about how much time is being spent preparing students.  Over the past several weeks CBS6 has been reporting on the New York State Exams under the new Common Core standards for students.  Now, in Schoharie, parents are being told their kids and their kids teachers have been so focused on these tests, they haven’t had time to assess how the kids are doing in school otherwise.

Late last week, mid-term reports were sent to parents of elementary students in Schoharie.  These progress reports are common among local districts to give parents an idea of how their kids are doing half-way through the marking-period.  What’s uncommon is what parents saw when they opened the reports.  “As my daughter said, she opened it, threw it on the table and said... well, that was worthless,” says Nikki Moleksy, a parent of two local students.  Under most major subjects, instead of an average, parents go an explanation that reads: “Due to preparation and administration of the New York State Assessments, we have a limited number of grades for your child.  We don’t feel it would be an accurate reflection of their learning to give a grade range at this time.”

“I talked to other parents and everyone is just very upset about the time taken away from the students, their instruction time,” says Moleksy.  The Schoharie School District tells CBS6 that between one week of school vacation, one shortened week of test preparation, two weeks of exams and a week of scoring, these tests have not only consumed student’s time but teachers too.  “The teachers weren't in the classroom to be able to judge the children's progress,” according to Molesky who says that is what she was told when she called the school principal.

Maryellen Gillis, the Elementary School principal tells CBS6 that the State Education Department requires teachers or retired teachers score all of the exams.  This year, instead of teams of 3-4 scorers, it was suggested the school have 6-8 teachers per group.  Add that, to the time they spent learning how to score the test and the teachers haven’t seen their students a whole lot over the past 5 weeks.  The students have had substitute teachers in the classroom for most of the marking period and the district says substitutes do not issue grades, mainly because with the new teacher evaluation systems the assigned teacher in the room is accountable for everything learned.   

A spokesman for the State Education Department says, "The test and scoring times in 2013 were comparable to last year.  We are not aware of another school district that was unable to provide report card grades this quarter."  When it comes to the amount of time spent preparing students for the exams, “Rote test prep practices are incompatible with highly effective teaching and lead to lower student performance.  Research has consistently demonstrated that students perform best on local, regional, statewide, or national assessments when they have a great teacher delivering high quality instruction aligned to rigorous standards"  the State Education Department says.   

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