07/13/2015 1:05 PM
Ken Wagner (Credit: NY Department of Education video image)

Ken Wagner (Credit: NY Department of Education video image)

A former principal and administrator in the Shoreham-Wading River School District, who rose through the ranks in the New York Education Department after leaving the district in 2007, was tapped to lead Rhode Island’s Education Department last week. (more…)

05/28/2015 5:59 AM
SWR Board of Education president William McGrath explains why he opposes field testing during last Tuesday's meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

SWR Board of Education president William McGrath explains why he opposes field testing during last Tuesday’s meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Last December, the Shoreham-Wading River school board took a stand against so-called “field testing” of students.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the board condemned the tests, which are ordered by the state to help testing companies fine-tune their questions. The board wrote in a resolution that the testing “would hurt children and abuse the public trust by subsidizing private enterprise without public discussion.”

The district’s administration moved forward with a plan to forgo the tests and have students go through normal school days during that allotted time.

But last Tuesday, the board was forced to backtrack on resisting the state’s rules after facing potential cuts in state aid — or worse — as punishment.

According to the school board, the state has not clarified whether the tests are mandatory.

The state refused to clarify what that means, said school board president William McGrath, leaving the district uncertain of whether it can opt out of the tests without facing consequences.

“This is clearly a situation of legal uncertainty,” said the district’s attorney, Patricia Unz.

“It’s a load of crap,” Mr. McGrath said. “I think that these tests … are a waste of instructional time.”

Earlier during last Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. McGrath pushed to cancel the tests and face any potential consequences from the state, which could include withholding state aid or punishment of district administrators.

“If it ‘means my job’ then it means my job,” Mr. McGrath said.

But while every board member at last Tuesday’s meeting said they opposed the field tests, Robert Rose and John Zukowski said they were worried the state would make an example of Shoreham-Wading River if they resisted.

“I totally disagree with them, I really do,” Mr. Rose said. “But I’m not willing to throw someone’s career out there and let the state do what they want with it.”

“People are drawing the lines in the sand in Albany, and I don’t want to be caught, as a district, on the wrong side of that line and maybe be the poster child for what Albany can do to a district,” added Mr. Zukowski.

An assistant district superintendent said the tests would be 45 minutes long and take place during the students’ normal class time — meaning, for example, that social studies field tests would be given during social studies class.

In the end, the risk was too great for the board, which unanimously and begrudgingly voted to hold the tests.

After the vote, Mr. McGrath explained to the one parent present at the meeting that the board’s hands were tied by the state education department. He urged residents to contact their state representatives and demand the tests be stopped.

“It has to come from the public,” he said. “The message has to get to them.”

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04/21/15 12:00pm

A mere four years ago, and for decades prior, one could not find any substantial evidence of students opting-out of standardized testing. At first glance, the current, heated, conflict over state testing and the “opt-out” movement appears to be a dispute between those who believe in and those who dispute the value of state tests. But this conflict goes deeper. It is a conflict about what is good for children and adolescents, about how children learn and thrive, and about how to raise young people to enter into and contribute to their communities as mature members of a democratic society.  (more…)

04/05/15 10:00am
04/05/2015 10:00 AM

Much has been said of late concerning Common Core and its effect on the education of our children, particularly with regard to testing and evaluation. And while I agree with the criticism that the implementation of the curriculum has been unwieldy and uneven, I understand the vision and intent of the Common Core standards.  (more…)

03/23/15 12:00pm
03/23/2015 12:00 PM

No doubt you have heard the news that public education is in need of reform. Gov. Cuomo has said so. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown has said so. Even President Obama has said so. And what do all these people have in common? Well, a few things. None of them has taught students a day in their life. All of them have received pay or political contributions from the charter school movement and/or testing companies and all of them have wholly endorsed more charter schools.  (more…)