October 24, 2013


Homer BOE calls for less standardized testing

Board says too much emphasis on tests takes away from instruction

Staff Reporter

HOMER — The Board of Education passed a resolution to be sent out immediately to state and local governments calling for a decrease in standardized testing, arguing the tests do not accurately measure a student’s performance or a teacher’s effectiveness.
Before the motion passed, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Ruscio read the resolution aloud during the meeting and members expressed their frustration with the increase in testing and a need to focus on what is best for students.
“There is concern on this board and elsewhere ... on how much time is spent on testing and how it eats into the instruction time,” board member Martin Sweeney said during the meeting. “I think it’s important that we as a board show the community we do discuss these things and we know what teachers in Homer are going through.”
After the meeting, Ruscio said the resolution was recently drafted and edited by the board in response to what it and parents think is an unnecessary level of testing on the state and local level.
“There was solidarity and commitment to make a statement.” Ruscio said. “ Over the last three years ... the (education) reform movement has moved rapidly and I think people feel in the rapidity of change there has not been a focus on the students.”
In other news, High School Principal Doug VanEtten gave a presentation on the new math and science courses students have been involved with since the beginning of the school year.
One of the classes is Intro to Health Careers which covers topics such as the history of health care in America, legal and ethical issues, and personal qualities of health care workers.
“A lot of this was introduced to provide an overview for our students about the variety of health care careers that are out there,” VanEtten said, “but also to provide the opportunity for students to learn about the health care system.”
Other courses provided to high school students through federal Race to the Top funding are virtual advanced placement courses. VanEtten said school counselors have been instrumental in helping students keep up with course work and have received positive feedback from the students as well.
Students who have been taking any of the three architecture classes available are spending a lot of time working with local architects, visiting project sites in the area and designing their own projects, VanEtten said, as he presented various projects the students have been working on to board members.
VanEtten also touched on how the school has been involved in an effort to advance Career and Technical Education goals which include building partnerships with local businesses and colleges to create courses for students that prepare them for high-skill and high-demand careers.
He added the high school has already begun a self-study on the effectiveness of the courses before presenting results to the board so that they might be approved and recognized by the state Education Department.
“What we hoped to add to the program I think we have,” Van Etten said. “We’re real excited to see as the year goes forward how that continues to develop.”


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