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State official ‘surprised’ by claims that testing standards are too high for fourth-graders

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MADRID — A state Education Department official said he is surprised to hear of objections from Madrid-Waddington Central School educators about the new state assessments and curriculum changes.

One district educator has said the standards that fourth-graders are expected to meet on tests in April are unrealistic. The Board of Education is compiling a list of concerns it has over the standardized tests.

Deputy Commissioner of P-12 Education Ken Slentz, who has worked closely with the state’s common core implementation plan, said he has not heard from any other teachers about the changes. Mr. Slentz said implementation guidelines for the new state assessments are available at www.engageny.org.

“These changes are over two years in the making,” he said. “We believe these changes are necessary and in line with the country’s Race to the Top initiative.”

Since he began his career with the Education Department in 1996, he said, education and support to teachers and administration have improved dramatically. Mr. Slentz said he has facilitated seminars across the state to prepare administrators, instructing them on the new standards.

“We’ve provided an unprecedented amount of support,” he said. “Ask any other states. They all say the same thing: No other state is more progressive than New York.”

By law, the state cannot impose a curriculum, state education spokesman Dennis Tompkins said.

“But BOCES staff act based on the curriculum that is available on the state’s website, and let individual districts know what is available,” Mr. Tompkins said.

Mr. Slentz said the state standards fully “align with the curriculum.”

But Madrid-Waddington fourth-grade teacher William D. Gotsch, who expressed concern to his school board that the tests are too difficult for fourth-graders, said educators are not being made aware of curriculum changes and test samples in time to prepare for the tests in April.

“They have been publishing as they have been going along,” he said. “Changes are still being made after the school year has already begun.”

“Only a couple of samples from the math tests are available online,” said Mr. Gotsch. “It’s stated on the website that an actual sample test would be out before the end of the summer. They have not sent us any, and it’s almost December.”

The board will present the list of concerns to Regent James C. Dawson when he visits today.

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