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Tough decisions

Student opt-outs reportedly limiting data compilation

November 2, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

The large percentage of students who are opting out of state assessments is making it difficult for teachers to acquire sufficient data, Westfield Academy and Central School board members learned at their meeting on Oct. 24.

The key to using the assessments is having adequate data which can be used to drive what happens in the classroom, according to Special Assignment Curriculum Coordinator Molly Anderson. The assessments are important diagnostic tools, she said.

"The testing is interactive. If a student gets a question right, it gives them a similar question," Anderson said. "It helps us to identify specific areas that students need help in and specific areas where they to be pushed."

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Pictured is Christine Schnars of the New York State School Board Association

Secondary School Principal Ivana Hite told board members that 54% of students in 5th grade refused to take the tests. Insufficient data from 5th graders made it difficult to develop appropriate curriculum for these pupils as they entered 6th grade, she said

The percentage of students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade who opted out was also very high, Hite said. "Many of the refusal kids were students who would have done well," she added.

Parents often do not understand what is at stake when they refuse to let their kids take the tests, Hite said. They do not recognize the importance of the assessments, she noted.

Elementary school principal Dr. Mary Rockey said that the assessment tests are very important in terms of improving the quality of education. She said that right now, the tests indicate that the WACS elementary students are about a grade level lower than where they should be.

"I know that the children here are very smart," Rockey said. "It may be that our expectations here are not as high as they should be."

In other business, board members listened to a presentation by Sylvester Cleary of the Chautauqua County School Board Association; and by Christine Schnars or the New York State School Board Association. The two spoke about the benefits of communication and an active relationship between the district and the agencies.

The board also learned that the district received good marks on it annual independent audit. Laura DiNapoli of Bahgat & Laurito-Bahgat told board members that WACS received an unmodified report, meaning that the district's financial records are within state guidelines. "You had a good year," she said. "It's a good healthy position for the district." District Superintendent David Davison told board members that there were seven applicants for the position of cafeteria manager and five of these were called for interviews. He asked if any board members were available for the second round of interviews and Brenda Backus responded affirmatively.

Davison said the interviews would be followed by a special board meeting early next week to approve the appointment of the new manager. He said this will allow for some overlap time with the departing cafeteria manager, Patty Benton.

Davison also updated board members on the progress of the district's capital project.

He said that work has been progressing steadily and he noted that the distance learning lab is up and running. "We are awaiting the final inspection of the roof work," he added.

Davison said the school had a lock-out about ten days ago and it was not a drill. "We made a couple of minor procedural adjustments," he said, "and everything went smoothly." We want to thank the staff and parents. Everyone was very cooperative and all students were picked up within eighty minutes, he added.

Board member Deanne Manzella addressed the board about state aid. "There are school districts in the state that don't need state aid to run their buildings, but they're receiving it," she said. We really need to change the formula she told fellow board members.

In other business, the board completed its first reading of Policy 5410 which deals with the procurement of goods and services, and approved Policy 7616 which outlines intervention strategies.



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