Remsenburg And Speonk Community Notes, September 5

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Our community has had a school since 1796. I can hardly believe that we have been educating children here for 217 years.Most know that our students march to the school’s second location every Memorial Day, now the site of a commemorative rock where we honor our local veterans. And, yes, education has changed since that first school opened in Remsenburg. But some things have not. I’m fairly certain the teachers back then had a clear idea of what their students needed to know, as do today’s educators at the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School.

The educational change touted by our government, called “Common Core,” is a way to reinforce student learning and organize curriculum across the United States. Like all good government ideas, there are financial benefits to the states that adopt this curriculum and New York signed up. The curriculum is still being finalized, though that did not stop officials from rolling out the first tests last school year.

A project this big takes several years to introduce into the schools. Students are a moving target and teachers need to incorporate changes into their lesson plans. Under the leadership of Dr. Ron Masera, the superintendent at our elementary school, this is taking place carefully so that students do not miss out on important skills.

For reasons that we can only guess at, State Education Commissioner John King decided to issue state-wide testing before the curriculum had been released. I took part in grading these tests and it was obvious the grades would be low. For example, there was a passage from “Heidi,” a book written 100 years ago in German about an orphan girl living in the Alps. Although it was translated, I found myself trying to remember the story to make sense of the questions. It was one of many curve ball questions designed to confuse students.

Scorers in my group, teachers with years of experience, had difficulty assigning scores. We were horrified that some students, including those who gave clear, well-stated answers, did not finish the test and failed. In other cases, students did well on a few questions and were confused by poorly worded ones. Both gifted and weak students failed the tests.

In a letter written to State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Comsewogue School District Superintendent Joseph Rella expresses his frustration over the scores, stating that they are “not related to student learning in any way.” An opinion piece written by Carol Corbett Burris, the principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre and published in The Washington Post, notes that Pearson, the company that holds a multimillion-dollar contract to create the tests, also sells test prep materials that they intend to sell to the districts.

Some would say that corporate profit, not education, is the motivation here.

Dr. Masera recently sent a letter detailing our school’s results; they are now listed on the school website at www.rsufsd.drupalgardens.com. And, yes, they are difficult to stomach in a district that has such a track record of education excellence.

I hope members of our community realize that there is something gravely wrong with a testing system that would yield results like this. Mr. King’s pathetic response to the low scores is that “we have a long way to go.” Either politics or profit motived last year’s testing—bottom line. And our community needs to call out Mr. King on this and tell him where he should go.

Now that I’m off my soap box, there are a few local students who deserve to be acknowledged.

Jamie DeVivo of Speonk recently headed off to SUNY at Oneonta.

And Robert Nidzyn of Remsenburg is enjoying his first college days as a freshman at Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors college.

Best of luck to both of you.

Our final art show of the season will open this Friday, September 6, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Remsenburg Academy on South County Road.

The show will feature work by photographer Ron Diel and collage artist Nicole Franz. The exhibit, titled “Images: Variations,” will be open on weekends between noon and 5 p.m. through Sunday, September 22.

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