Districts receive assessment grants

JOHNSTOWN – A consortium of 14 school districts led by the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services is getting $393,966 in state grants to review and improve student assessments.

The Teaching is the Core grant from the state Education Department will pay for activities from Sept. 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, according to a news release from BOCES.

The grant was one of 31 awarded statewide.

“We are very excited that our districts have this opportunity to review assessments,” HFM BOCES Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst said in the news release. “The process is intended to help improve the instructional programs in our schools and ensure that student learning is supported to the highest degree.”

Fourteen districts are part of the consortium, including Gloversville, Johnstown, Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Canajoharie, Edinburg, Fonda-Fultonville, Fort Plain, Lake Pleasant,

Mayfield, Northville, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville, Wells and Wheelerville.

Each district will create a local assessment review team of teachers and administrators to conduct the work. An education consultant will provide training, helping all the districts to determine the review process, what assessments to review, and to create an action plan based on their findings. Engaging parents in each district on the use of assessments is also a goal of the grant, according to the news release.

The grants, funded through New York’s federal Race to the Top grant, will support applicants in their efforts to eliminate locally adopted tests that do not contribute to teaching and learning. In addition, the grants will help districts and district consortia identify and improve assessments already in use that can be included as a component of multiple measures of student learning and school and educator effectiveness.

“High-quality assessments are an integral part of teaching and learning,” state Education Commissioner John King said in a news release from the state Education Department. “They provide useful feedback to teachers, parents and students. At the state level, we haven’t increased the number of tests we administer, and virtually all of the tests we give are required by federal law. Unfortunately, due to various pressures at the federal, state and local level, testing has increased in many districts in ways that do not always support good instruction and sometimes even crowd out time for student learning. Testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making in classrooms, schools and districts. These grants will help reduce non-essential local testing in hundreds of school districts across the state. And, more important, they’ll help teachers teach more and test less, which is exactly what our students need.”

According to the state news release, the funding will allow districts to:

Determine which assessments support the instructional goals of the district.

Determine an appropriate action plan that will eliminate unnecessary assessments and increase the use of diverse and quality assessment.

Support the use of diversified assessment strategies by encouraging a review of local assessments currently in use for teacher evaluations.

Establish a professional development program that will aid teachers in identifying high-quality assessments and improving assessment practices.