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School official: New assessments are 'a nightmare''

    TRI-COUNTY AREA—Students will have noticed a change at school as they start the current year by taking more tests.
     These assessments, and an overhaul of staff evaluations, are all part of New York State’s new annual professional performance review (APPR), which is effective as of this school year. Dundee Superintendent Kathy Ring said the district has to identify student learning objectives and measure them with the initial assessments and tests at the end of the school year. Ring added the security of the assessments rivals the New York level tests.
    “The staff was involved most of the summer training around the assessments,” said Ring.
    The pre-assessments started two weeks ago. Ring said the district was given a timeframe in order to complete the tests. She added the principals have staggered when the tests are taken so the students are not overwhelmed.
    Hammondsport elementary Principal Michelle Sincerbox said “the APPR is scary to (staff),” but added teachers are focused on implementing the curriculum.
    Howard Dennis, interim middle school principal, said the changes have created more responsibilities for staff. The superintendents must evaluate the principals and the principals in turn evaluate the teachers. This all required training over the summer. He added the work creates “quite a time crunch.”
    “Teachers are feeling overwhelmed. Administrators are feeling overwhelmed. And students are wondering why they are being faced with so many seemingly random new tests,” said Kate Bartholomew, president of the Watkins Glen Faculty Association and Ascience teacher.
    She added, “Time management is most definitely an issue —how can one possibly accomplish the same quality experience in the classroom when constantly interrupted with testing of one sort or another?” added Bartholomew.

    At Odessa-Montour, Director of Special Programs Roni Lewis added about assessments, “to say the least it’s a nightmare.”
     On the curriculum side, the testing has decreased teaching time. Watkins Superintendent Tom Phillips said one middle school teacher told him it took two weeks of testing before being able to start regular instruction. He added the district is eight weeks away from the next required tests. Phillips explained there will be quarterly tests and the end of the school year exams.
    Teachers and administrators will be graded on student test results, as well as observations, and given a score out of 100 points. The exact break-down is determined by the district. Ring said at Dundee, 20 or 25 points will be determined by the state. She added 20 or 15 points is decided at the local level. The final 60 points is based on the teacher observations and classroom walkthroughs.
    Hammondsport school board President Jim Zimar said the APPR has created a lot of extra work for people. Superintendent Kyle Bower said the state hasn’t approved the Hammondsport’s local part of the plan yet. Based on estimates, he said state approval will likely be in January. However, the district has to start the assessments and observations at this time.
    “Kids are frustrated taking pre-assessment after pre-assessment,” said Bower.


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