Testing Accommodations

By Gavin Paterniti

Two seniors at Jamestown High School will have to wait a little while longer to see how the state is going to put them back on the path to graduation.

The seniors, along with several other high school students, are hopeful that the New York State Education Department will allow an opportunity to make up the Regents exams that were missed due to last month’s school closing on Jan. 22.

The Jamestown Public Schools’ Board of Education has been in contact with NYSED to make accommodations for these students who were negatively impacted by the closing, which was due to inclement weather and bitter cold temperatures. The closing resulted in more than 200 Jamestown students missing one or more Regents exams for the day, which included: integrated algebra, comprehensive English, physical settings/physics and a Regents competency test in global studies.

According to Deke Kathman, district superintendent, the district is remaining cautiously optimistic while awaiting acknowledgment from NYSED.

“We are still anticipating a formal response from the state Education Department,” said Kathman. “We hold out some slim hopes that there might be an accommodation for the two kids that needed these Regents results to finish their high school graduation. Whether or not that pans out for those two kids, we still have not heard. As troubling is the fact that we aren’t expecting an accommodation for the 200 other kids that missed their exams. That’s been a very real frustration for our board.”

On Tuesday, the board of education passed a resolution calling for NYSED to consider revising its policy on missed exams due to extenuating circumstances such as severe weather. According to Kathman, the resolution is intended to help NYSED take preventative measures in the inevitability of future emergency school closings.

“(The resolution) amounts to an incentive or request to the state Education Department to make a plan for the future, because this will happen again,” he said. “Somewhere in the state, probably every time the Regents exams are administered, something happens – the power goes out, or a pipe breaks or whatever. So, it does seem like there ought to be some mechanism to accommodate students in that circumstance.”

Additionally, Kathman said that the board asked for the resolution to be refashioned into a proposal for consideration by the New York State School Board Association.

“I’ll be in contact with our Area 3 director, that is Chris Schnars, and ask her how that message might be sent to the state board,” he said.

In the meantime, teachers and staff at JHS are making plans to keep the affected seniors prepared for their “make up” exams in June. Present at the board meeting was Mike McElrath, JHS principal, who informed board members of these plans.

“We are planning for the additional seniors who missed tests, and had basically just finished (their) classes,” said Mike McElrath, principal of JHS. “I’ve met with the teachers, and we’ve outlined a plan for the second semester where we can begin to get these students some help prior to their June Regents exams. And that will be based on the kids with the most needs getting a little bit more help over the last 10 weeks of school, and some of the other students will be pulled in for some after school help as we get a little closer to the tests. So we’ve got kind of a graduated approach to helping all the students.”

He continued: “It will put a little bit of a restraint on us because this isn’t something that you prepare for. But we’re going to do some balancing and juggling and we’re going to do the best we can because we know that this is our priority. These kids missed their tests. They spent a lot of time getting ready for them and the teachers were very disappointed that they couldn’t administer the tests on that day. But we’ve got a plan in place and the plan is to work through that.”

In addition to JPS, the Southwestern Central School and Falconer Central School districts were also closed on Jan. 22.