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Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 6:16 pm

To Opt Out or Not? That is the Question.

To Opt Out or Not?  That is the Question

by Gretchen DiFante - posting as a parent of students impacted by the assessments.  

Some of the Batavia City School District students will take New York State tests beginning this Tuesday. Many others are exercising their right to opt out of these tests. 

My husband and I have watched our children take these state exams since our eldest was in elementary school (she’s now 22 years old); however up until this year, we’ve never seen any of our five children exhibit any unusual stress or anxiety over these tests.  This year is different, and in the past two weeks our fourth grader’s anxiety over taking the tests has escalated daily.  Discussion of the topic between my eighth grader, her classmates and us, her parents, has recently dominated our family conversations.

Our district teachers had an evaluation system tied to several new items last year, including observations, and they performed very well as did teachers state wide.  Then the governor basically said something like, “teachers performed too well, and they really can’t be that good, so let’s make the evaluation system more difficult (and more ludicrous).”  Please tell me in what other industry in the world does that happen?  The position in which the governor is willing to put our teachers is, in my opinion, unforgiveable.  We have phenomenal teachers in our district and in the state.  I’m not saying that because I’m a school board member.  Being a school board member just makes me feel more protective of our teachers, but my opinion is based on having five children who have either graduated from or are currently being educated in this district.  My children have had outstanding teachers, coaches and administrators who have taught them life lessons way beyond the “basics.”  They have demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, been there to lift our kids up when they’ve struggled, spent extra time with them when they’ve realized untapped potential that needed fueling, worked side by side with my husband and me as we faced some very difficult challenges and even cried tears with us at moments of crisis.  

One of the best overviews I’ve read regarding the recent education bill and its impact on our teachers is written by Valerie Strauss and entitled, What the ‘thoughtless NY government just did to teachers,’ published in the Washington Post on April 3.  The reader can access that article at this link:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/03/what-the-thoughtless-n-y-government-just-did-to-teachers/

From our children’s friends and in countless social media posts I read, there seem to be two main reasons for opting out of the upcoming tests:  they are afraid their teachers will be unfairly judged if they perform poorly on the tests and they “hate” (or fill in the blank with similar words) Common Core. 

The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), developed Common Core.  Teachers, parents, school administrators, and experts from across the country, together with state leaders, provided input into Common Core standards.  The design for the Common Core standards was based on scholarly research, surveys on the skills required of students entering college and workforce training programs, assessment data identifying college and career-ready performance, comparisons to standards from high-performing states and nations, National Assessment of Educational Progress frameworks in reading and writing for English language arts, and findings from Trends in International Mathematics and Science and other studies which concluded the traditional mathematics curriculum (the way my generation learned, paying attention parents?), must become substantially more coherent and focused in order to improve student achievement. 

All that research and wisdom, and we seem to have a significant number of people in this country who know more about educational needs than this body of research shows and this group of experts believes.  

Responsible interpretation of research requires critical questioning and strategic thinking and an objective perspective.  Ironically, the exact skills Common Core is designed to reinforce; but you see, I didn’t grow up in an educational system designed to teach those skills.  I was, however, lucky to be the daughter of teachers who instilled those skills in opportunities outside the classroom. 

I was horrible at math. Linear equations still make me nervous. As a young adult, the field I wanted to enter required lots of math; and because I saw myself as inadequate and, yes, too stupid, to master the math, I never pursued that path.  Our first three kids were educated prior to Common Core, and I could rarely understand their math past Middle School.  Common Core came, and I scratched my head at some of our daughter’s third grade math.  But something weird happened; my husband, a former civil engineer, who had always understood our kids’ math, was struggling to understand some of the basic math principles as well.  We did research on Common Core and found that the math curricula were designed to teach fewer concepts but to dive very deeply into those concepts and to teach them from the linear, visual and language-based perspectives.  I had heard opponents criticize Common Core as catering to one single type of learner.  Then a really odd thing happened in the DiFante house earlier this year, my husband was helping our fourth grader with her math and said, “I don’t understand this at all, maybe your Mom can help you,” to which our daughter responded with, “Yeah, right Dad.” 

I looked at the math problem and didn’t see a problem at all.  Instead I saw a very logical story, and I immediately knew how to arrive at the answer – it was math without numbers – a dream come true! What I learned is that the Common Core Math Standards require students to learn multiple ways to solve problems and explain how they got their answers.  The standards and resulting curricula are designed so the linear learners like my husband and verbal learners like me and visual learners as well have unprejudiced opportunity to build three different yet equally important logical approaches to mathematics.  I hope the reader can truly grasp how exciting that is!  Our childrens’ brains are getting trained a different way; and it is because of this that our children will be better strategic thinkers and able to make better decisions by virtue of a more robust and disciplined thought process than our brains were trained to undergo.

I know this change is painful for parents; we all feel inadequate and protective at the same time; however, we need to move forward for the sake of our children.  Progress is good and needed.  If, like many, you thought the previous educational approach in our schools was good enough and not in need of fixing, consider the huge body of evidence showing that two-thirds of American college students attending four-year colleges fail to earn their degrees within six years and estimating the cost of 1.7 million students nationwide in remedial college classes at $3 billion a year.  Remedial coursework makes taxpayers pay twice -- once for students to learn in high school, and again in college.

A 2011 national survey by the ACT, showed four out of five students in college remediation had high school GPAs above a 3.0!

If you are still a disbeliever, ask anyone on the faculty or in administration at Genesee Community College to tell you about the changes they have witnessed in the remedial needs of incoming freshman. 

Lest readers think it’s only college-bound students who need changes, please have a conversation with any employer in this county who is in charge of hiring employees in any industry from the manufacturing floor to the board room and listen to them describe the challenges inherent in the available pool of candidates.

Regarding the tests beginning this Wednesday, the Batavia School District’s official opinion regarding opting out is stated in the four points listen below:

1. We are a Focus District, and if we do not make our participation rate of 95% on the exams, we potentially could lose more local control for our district.  Two or more years of not making it could lead to us being a Priority District which would have even worse ramifications than being a Focus District.

2.  If our participation rate dips below 95% we can lose a portion or all of Title 1 federal grant, which impacts 26 teaching positions.  It would be the equivalent of losing funding for 12 full time teaching positions. 

3.  We do not use the exam to punish/fire teachers.  We have worked collaboratively for years with the BOE, administrators and teacher union to ensure that we keep perspective over this one piece of data for student achievement.  It is not used in BCSD to hurt our teachers or students. 

4.  The state tests allow us to compare our students to other students across the state that are similar to our population.  In general, we do very well compared to other small city school districts.  

While the way in which the state rolled out Common Core is certainly flawed, overall Common Core standards are good.  Common Core is necessary.  That said, we have two years behind us.  Our district has spent countless hours, resources and dollars to ensure our students are getting the best instruction and our teachers are getting support for curricula development and delivery.  If we walk away now, we walk away from progress; but I fear it will be too late if we have a significant number of our students opt out of state testing.  I encourage parents to protest - write letters, march on Albany, refuse to take, “no” for an answer when it comes to both teacher appraisals and New York State’s roll out of Common Core, but please don’t fall into the trap of being wholeheartedly against Common Core and making choices that cause stress for all students and may, in the end, hurt the district overall.   Get informed, ask questions, challenge what you hear; and if you don’t know how to challenge what you hear, ask a third grader – they are in their third year of Common Core, and IF they haven’t already been prejudiced against what they’re learning and IF you can listen to them without judgment, they just may be able to help you see some value in what they have to say. 

 

 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Batavia's Kindergarten Registration for 2015-2016 Has Started

The Jackson Primary School staff looks forward to welcoming its new students for 2015-2016! Registration has started in the Batavia City School District’s Business Office for children eligible to begin kindergarten in the 2015-2016 school year. Children who will be five years old on or before December 1, 2015, are eligible to begin school at Jackson Primary in the fall. To register, parents may go to the District Business Office, located in the administration wing of Batavia High School (260 State Street), on school days between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and bring with them:

  • two proofs  of residency (for example: utility bill for gas, water, electric, cable; lease or rental agreement; mortgage statement; landline phone bill) unless the child is currently enrolled in the District’s Universal Pre-kindergarten program,
  • the child’s birth certificate,
  • the child’s Social Security card, and
  • the child’s complete immunization records.

   If you have questions, please call the Business Office at 343-2480 x1002.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Batavia City Schools Begin Kindergarten Registration for 2015-2016

Registration has started in the Batavia City School District for children eligible to begin kindergarten in the 2015-2016 school year. Children who will be five years old on or before December 1, 2015, are eligible. To register, parents may go to the Business Office, located in the administration wing of Batavia High School (260 State Street), on school days between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and bring with them:

  • two proofs  of residency (for example: utility bill for gas, water, electric, cable; lease or rental agreement; mortgage statement; landline phone bill) unless the child is currently enrolled in the District’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program,
  • the child’s birth certificate,
  • the child’s Social Security card, and
  • the child’s complete immunization records.

   If you have questions, please call the Business Office at 343-2480 x1002.

Parents of new first grade pupils are also asked to register their child in the same time frame and with the same documentation.

 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Vote For Batavia's Varsity Football Team

Batavia City School District is in the running to win $1,000 because the varsity football team has been featured on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel's game of the week. All that is needed is your vote (and plenty of others before the deadline of this Friday, November 14, at 2:30 p.m., so feel free to pass this information on… quickly!)

 

It is so easy – not to mention fun to replay one of the amazing passes/catches of the season! Just click on this link to go directly to the voting (and replay) page:

http://www.twcsportschannel.com/ny/rochester/play-of-the-year.html

 

The Time Warner Cable SportsChannel Play of the Year contest recognizes the best plays from their coverage of high school football this fall. Each weekly winner has advanced to a final competition to crown a Play of the Year. Along with bragging rights, a $1,000 Grand Prize will be awarded to the school that executed the winning Play of the Year.

 

Now is the time for all Batavia City School District students, families, and friends to vote for Batavia’s play. Do it now, because, remember, voting ends this Friday at 2:30 pm.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Survey for Parents of Batavia City School District Students

post by Kathie Scott in batavia city school district
The Batavia City School District is asking parents of students to take a short survey, The Batavia Family Engagement Survey, to share their opinions and thoughts about the District’s strengths and weaknesses. The survey should not take longer than 15 minutes to complete. It consists of rating-scale questions with possible responses ranging from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree.” There are also a few open-ended questions for sharing comments and ideas. Parents are asked to fill out one survey for each school their children attend and are asked to complete them by November 30, 2014. Information, including the internet link for accessing the survey, has been sent home with children. The link is: www.surveymonkey.com/s/8XV7LLC . Parents without internet access are asked to call the District Curriculum and Instruction Office at 343-2480 x1003. This survey is part of an effort to gather information from parents, students, and staff which will be used in setting priorities and goals for the District and individual schools. Each family’s input is valuable and all parents are urged to take part in the survey so their thoughts, ideas, and aspirations can be heard.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Facing Disasters: Citizen Preparedness Corps Training

post by Kathie Scott in batavia city school district, emergency

If enough Batavia City School District residents are interested, the District will host the American Red Cross FREE Citizen Preparedness Corps training sessions entitled Prepare, Respond, Recover: What to do When Disaster Strikes.

The Citizen Preparedness Corps training program was initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide residents with the knowledge and tools to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly, and recover to pre-disaster conditions as quickly as possible.

For the training, a Red Cross representative conducts an approximately two-hour session of the Citizen Preparedness Corps training program, which provides a comprehensive overview on how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters.

Please contact Jim Jacobs, Director of Facilities III, 343-2480 x1013, if interested. If enough people express interest, the Batavia City School District will schedule and announce the training.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Batavia Universal Pre-K Registration Still Open

Registration for the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program offered through the Batavia City School District is still open, as there are several openings left at two locations!

UPK provides an opportunity for four-year-old children to be involved in half-day, developmentally appropriate educational classes at no cost to their families. The District offers morning and afternoon programs, Monday through Friday, during the school year at three locations: the YMCA, Lucky Ducky Daycare, and, although filled to capacity for this year, Jackson Primary School.

In addition, the YMCA and Lucky Ducky Daycare each have the option for a “wrap around” program consisting of Child Watch in the morning followed by UPK in the afternoon from12:30-3:00, then School Aged Child Care afterward. Although there is no charge for UPK, the YMCA and Lucky Ducky Daycare do charge for the morning Child Watch and afternoon Child Care programs.

Children who are residents of the District, are four (4) years of age on or before December 1, 2014, and who are not enrolled in a special education program with the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP) are eligible to apply. Letters/applications have been mailed to all known eligible families, but also are available at the District Registrar Office in the administrative wing of Batavia High School (260 State Street), or by calling 343-2480 ext.2008. They can also be downloaded from the District’s website, www.bataviacsd.org, by using the pull-down menu at the top of the page labeled “Parent,” or the Quick Link labeled “Parent Resources,” then clicking on the link for Universal Pre-K. Please return completed packets to the District Business Office.

Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

Urban League of Rochester Honors 27 Batavia High Students for Academics

   Nearly 30 students earned Early Recognition/Certificates of Achievement from the Urban League of Rochester, NY, Inc. for the 2013-2014 school year. The Early Recognition Program, a component of the League’s Black Scholars Program, is used to identify, encourage, and support high school students with high academic abilities. Once students are identified, they are eligible for the League’s assistance and guidance in academics as well as in college and career planning. Those honored included Kaliann Bell, Tiarra Carney, Zoey Davis, Malachi Chenault, Jayvon Cherry, Jerrell Cherry, Adonis Davis, Hannah Durham, Tiara Filbert, Honesty Green, Jaz'mine Holmes, Olivia Majors, Briana Martin, Alyssa McKenzie, Mariah Morrison, Madeline Morrison, Ismile Smith, Alexis Vasciannie, Malik Vasciannie, Nephrateedies Williams, Jaysen Wylie, and (not pictured), Stacey Castro, Kenneth Griffin, Irisa Hill, Teiona Kemp, Sierra Sears, and Danny Williams.

Students who continue to do well in their studies up to and through their senior year are confirmed as Black Scholars and can participate in many college-related activities offered through the Urban League’s educational program, including the opportunity to apply for scholarships that are only offered to Black Scholars. Each June, the year’s Black Scholars are publicly recognized at an annual dinner and over $2.5 million in scholarships are awarded.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

Proud to Be... BCSD

post by Kathie Scott in batavia city school district, schools

All staff have been invited to respond to the question of what made or makes them feel particularly proud of being part of Batavia City School District. We are beginning to post their responses on our website (www.bataviacsd.org) and on our facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/BataviaCitySchools ) which has space for your comments. If you’d like to share a note about something that made or makes you feel proud of the District's staff or students, email Kathie Scott, [email protected]

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Dailey shared this:  “A nationwide ranking by U.S. News & World Report gave high marks to Batavia High School, placing BHS in the U.S. News Top 150 schools in New York and in the Top 2,000 nationwide.
Of more than 30,000 total public, charter, and magnet schools reviewed nationwide, out of which approximately 19,500 were ranked, Batavia High School was placed at 1,824; out of more than 1,000 total schools analyzed in New York State, of which 268 were ranked, BHS was placed at 145. Based on 2011-12 data, the results were determined through the use of overall student performance on standardized tests and how well-prepared students were for college-level work. Availability of specialized classes for students of all skill levels as well as student-to-teacher ratios also factored into the rankings.

Friday, March 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Applications Available for Batavia City School District Universal Pre-K

 

   The Batavia City School District is pleased to offer the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program for students and will continue to operate the program in the 2014-2015 school year, pending State funding. UPK provides an opportunity for four-year-old children to be involved in half-day, developmentally appropriate educational classes at no cost to their families. The District offers morning and afternoon programs, Monday through Friday, during the school year. (If the YMCA is selected to be the Community Based Organization to provide UPK in 2014-15, there will be an option to select a “wrap around” program consisting of Child Watch in the morning followed by UPK in the afternoon from12:30-3:00, then School Aged Child Care afterward. There would be a charge for the morning Child Watch and afternoon Child Care programs.) If new State regulations are passed, the District may offer a full day UPK program in the 2014-15 school year.

   Children who are residents of the District, are four (4) years of age on or before December 1, 2014, and who are not enrolled in a special education program with the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP) are eligible to apply. Letters/applications have been mailed to all known eligible families, but also are available at the District Registrar Office in the administrative wing of Batavia High School, or by calling 343-2480 ext. 2008. They can also be downloaded from the District’s website, www.bataviacsd.org, by using the pull-down menu at the top of the page labeled “Parent,” or the Quick Link labeled “Parent Resources,” then clicking on the link for Universal Pre-K.  Applications should be returned by April 4, 2014, however, late applications will be accepted if there is an opening.

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