Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | News | Local News | Contact Us | Home RSS

Rocky transition for NY education

September 11, 2014
Editorial , Lake Placid News

The state recently announced the math and English language arts results for students in grades 3 to 8. It was not a pretty picture overall, and many education officials are having to face up to some subpar outcomes.

We have mixed feelings about the brave new world of U.S. education. The Common Core has replaced and one-upped No Child Left Behind in treating tests as the one and only measure, squeezing out much of teachers' wisdom. We don't like that. Plus, New York rushed and botched its implementation of the new system. On the other hand, we like that the Common Core raises standards and makes them consistent. From our observations, grade inflation has been a problem in recent years, giving many students a false sense of self-esteem and leaving little room for the best students to stretch out. When the new normal means grades in the 90s, something's wrong.

So then came the 2013 state tests, crushing self-esteem like a steamroller.

Statewide, April's scores improved slightly from the previous year, but it still doesn't look good. Thirty-six percent - barely more than a third - of students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded the state proficiency standard, while last year, 31 percent met the benchmark. On English assessments, the proficiency rate was a flat 31.4 percent, compared to 31.3 percent in 2013.

None of the Tri-Lakes' big three public school districts met the state average for math. Saranac Lake did the best with 32 percent, and with 32 percent in English it actually exceeded the state average by a little bit.

"I certainly can't celebrate that," Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox said of the scores showing two-thirds of the students being not proficient. "At the same time, there was work involved to get there."

Meanwhile, the Lake Placid Central School District trailed, and Tupper Lake trailed significantly. So did AuSable Valley.

The small Keene and Long Lake school districts did much better, which is not a surprise. But while Long Lake's scores declined from 2013, Keene's rocketed up to 61 percent proficiency in math and 56 percent in English. It's odd that it's a cause for rejoicing when half a school's students show basic proficiency in math and English, but that shows how high the bar was raised.

Separately, The Daily Beast online news journal ranked Keene as the nation's 125th best high school. We congratulate the tight-knit Keene Central School community on these well-earned accolades. The school is these people's top priority, and it shows. Also, KCS is in a better financial situation than most North Country school districts, and that shows, too.

It's annoying for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to raise standards, keep school funding low and cap property tax increases all at the same time, forcing schools to lay off teachers and cut offerings. Keene doesn't do that - it has had no significant layoffs in recent years and actually added a new principal this year - and it succeeds. Granted, it's not as simple as that - there are many factors involved here - but there's a lesson to learn: New York should make education a priority, perhaps at the expense of less important things the state does. Trim the fat - capping administrators' pay would be a good place to start - but strengthen the muscle and bone.

Good news came out of these test scores, but statewide, Education Commissioner John King is putting his best face on a sour situation.

"Like more than 40 other states, we're in a period of transition; for us, that transition began with the adoption of higher standards in 2010," Mr. King said. By choosing 2010 as his start date, Mr. King ignored the fact that most New York students and parents weren't aware of the Common Core rollout - and certainly not of its scope - until 2013, and that the state didn't even give teachers most of the resources they needed to teach to the tests until after the first round was over. That botched rollout was primarily the fault of Mr. King's department.

While acknowledging that "we have a lot of important work ahead of us," Mr. King promised that "we will invest millions (of dollars) more in the years ahead" and focus intensely "on continuous improvement of instruction."

New York's education reform has come under fire from many, and these most recent test results will only add fuel to the flames. We hope Mr. King is right and that the state can emerge from this blaze stronger than before. We hope the new system's proponents, critics and participants will work together, humbly and open-mindedly, with that goal in mind.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web