Catholic elementary and middle schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany are stepping back from the Common Core-New York State Assessments and shifting instead to a more student-focused approach to standardized testing, the diocesan Catholic Schools Office announced Oct. 2 at a news conference at St. Madeleine Sophie School in Schenectady.
"Long before the advent of Common Core, Catholic schools in this diocese were known for their high academic standards, and today’s announcement signals a recommitment to and recognition of what we have always done best: educating the whole child – body, mind, and spirit,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.
At the news conference, Catholic Schools Superintendent Michael Pizzingrillo explained that over the past two years, the Catholic Schools Office along with a variety of stakeholders have evaluated participation in the New York State Assessments and found that although its schools have used test results appropriately, the negative perception of its potential use did not allow parents and teachers the ability to benefit from its participation in all grades.
“The end result is a stepping back from the New York State Assessments coupled with a stepping forward with an achievement-based assessment we have chosen for ourselves,” Pizzingrillo said. “Although the standards of the Common Core itself are good, the collateral pieces have caused great strife for families and teachers alike. It’s time to put a renewed focus back on our students where it belongs.”
Beginning this year, diocesan Catholic elementary and middle schools will administer the New York State Assessments only in grades 3, 5, and 7, meaning the tests will not serve as annual evaluations of student performance, but rather as benchmarks of longitudinal student progress over a set number of years. Catholic schools will administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (recently renamed the Iowa Assessments), a nationally normed multiple-choice assessment, to all students in grades 3 through 8 in November.
“This new testing protocol will allow our students to be judged against their peers based on what they’ve actually learned rather than be judged against a set of state-mandated standards,” said Pizzingrillo. “This is a first step. We will continue to evaluate the assessments as they affect our students, our teachers, and our overarching goal of educating the whole child, and we will make further adjustments as needed.”
The rationale for continuing New York State Assessments in grades 3, 5, and 7 is three-fold:
(1) It enhances the intended use of the New York State Testing Program as a programmatic assessment. The third-grade assessment should now be viewed as assessing kindergarten to third grade. The fifth-grade assessment should now be viewed as assessing fourth and fifth grade, and the seventh-grade assessment should now be viewed as assessing sixth and seventh grade.
(2) Participation in New York State Assessments has never been used for the evaluation of Catholic school teachers. By stepping away from a year-by-year New York State assessment, the Catholic Schools Office hopes to remove the misperception that Catholic schools are using the data in the same way as government (public and charter) schools.
(3) Catholic schools within the diocese have varied organizational structures. Some are pre-K-5, pre-K-6, and pre-K-8. Testing at the three grade levels provides important programmatic data for elementary schools at a minimum of two-grade levels.
In order to meet the needs of schools and in order to provide timely data to inform instruction, the Diocese of Albany Catholic Schools will administer the Iowa Assessment to all students in grades 3 through 8 in November.
This norm-referenced assessment will provide valuable information for teachers to use during the current school year with their current students. In addition, students in grades 4 and 6 will take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). The results of CogAT will inform parents and teachers as to the individual student’s ability, which when coupled with their Iowa scores, will frame a picture of the individual student that has not been presented before.
There are currently 23 diocesan, regional, and parish elementary schools serving approximately 5,500 students in the Diocese of Albany. Open to children of all faiths, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Albany provide a well-rounded, faith-based academic experience that educates the whole child – body, mind, and spirit.