With the scholastic testing season inching ever closer, Oceanside and Island Park administrators were forced to make a decision on how to handle conflicting exams.
New York state recently ruled that eighth-graders enrolled in algebra do not have to take the state mathematics exam, but will still be required to take two Regents exams: one based on the new Common Core curriculum, to be administered in early June, and another based on the old integrated algebra curriculum, in late June. The two exams differ both in content and style, making it extremely difficult if not impossible for districts to prepare students adequately for both exams.
Oceanside administrators opted to prepare students for the new Common Core while advising students to take both tests, in order to keep their options open.
“We are giving the Common Core regents, and also encouraging students to take the other exam because the state will accept the higher of the two grades,” said Robert Fenter, Oceanside’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and research.
Island Park administrators also chose to prepare students for the Common Core, though the district will also require students to take the older test.
“We are going to have our students take the integrated Common Core algebra regents, and they will not be taking the grade 8 math assessment,” said Dr. Rosemary Bovino, superintendent of the Island Park School District. “They will also be taking the NYS integrated algebra regents, and we will be obviously selecting the highest score for record on our students’ transcripts to high school.”
The Common Core curriculum has come under fire from some parents and educators since New York state, as part of an agreement to receive extra federal funding from the Race to the Top initiative, instituted an adapted version of the extensive testing regimen. At a Nov. 13 forum at Mineola High School, New York Education Commissioner Dr. John King and Chancellor Meryl Tisch met with nearly 50 administrators, teachers and parents to discuss the curriculum — and not one of the invited attendees supported the rollout.
The new algebra curriculum — which the state calls “modules,” and which is available online — is divided into 180 lessons designed for hour-long classes. Grading of the Common Core exams may take longer than the grading of integrated algebra regents, as the state is using what it calls a “post-administration standard setting” on the exam — it will decide what grade is the pass/fail mark after all the exams are graded. The state also plans to use student test scores to help evaluate teacher performance.
But Donna Kraus, the public relations officer for the Oceanside School District, noted that in Oceanside’s case, the decision to implement the Common Core curriculum is not about “teaching to the test.”
“Our curriculum is aligned to state standards so that there is no ‘teaching to the test,’” Kraus said. “We teach the curriculum.”