The North Merrick School District announced in March that each of its schools — Camp Avenue, Fayette and Old Mill Road — had qualified for a $75,000 “Reward School Dissemination Grant” from the state Education Department due to their students’ high performance on state assessment tests in 2011 and 2012.
These standardized English and math tests were the last the state gave before it introduced new and more difficult exams based on the Common Core Learning Standards in 2013. The Common Core-associated tests have sparked a wave of controversy and protest from some educators, parents and students that resulted in the state’s Board of Regents, which oversees the Education Department, agreeing in February to make certain changes to the tests and related policies in future years.
The state previously notified North Merrick that all its schools had earned the designation “Reward Schools” because of students’ test scores, according to Superintendent David Feller, but it was last month that the district learned the title came with prize money.
Only districts that meet the criteria of Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides aid for economically disadvantaged students, could be considered “Reward Schools.”
The funds are split into two parts — $50,000 to “support required activities and enhance the school and district’s best practices,” and $25,000 to “disseminate best practices and mentor low performing schools,” according to the state Education Department’s website.
“We’re very proud,” Feller said. “… We don’t feel how students do on tests is the end-all-be-all, but we’re glad we have additional funding to support our best practices.”
Beth Friedman, North Merrick’s deputy superintendent, said that the district’s administration will develop a plan for how it will use the money, which it will submit to the state. She said the district hopes the money will support and improve its use of computer technology in classrooms, as well as that of lower-scoring districts who do site visits to North Merrick. The money must however be spent during the 2014-15 school year and cannot be used to purchase new technology, Friedman said.