Bemus Point Prepares For Assessment Mandate

ELLERY – Administrative staff at the Bemus Point Central School district are doing everything possible to prepare for the state-mandated Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers program.

As reflected in its $13 million 2013-14 budget, the district set aside $136,900 to purchase computer hardware and software in order to make the upgrades necessary to implement the PARCC program by the 2014 academic year-a line item which drew the consternation of several former board of education members during the district’s initial budget hearing in May. The line item was unchanged in the final budget, which passed on its second attempt in June.

According to Jacqueline Latshaw, outgoing Bemus Point superintendent, the district’s primary focus in its PARCC preparations is the provision of quality teaching aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards-an international education initiative designed to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other.

“(The PARCC assessments) haven’t been adopted yet, but everything is on track,” she said. “The quality teaching is what we’re focusing on. I think if we can do that, everything will fall into place. And the PARCC assessments will be testing that, so we should be fine.”

The PARCC program will create a standard set of K-12 assessments in math and English, the content of which is based on what it takes to prepare students for success in college and future careers. The assessments will also coincide with the Common Core standards in order to determine their presence in the classroom.

According to an Albany Times Union article last week, it has been rumored that PARCC is positioned to eventually dethrone the Regents examination as the statewide standard in determining students’ academic prowess in high school and their readiness for college. The article served to put the rumor to rest by including comments from the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Ticsh, who said PARCC will not be replacing the traditional Regents exams anytime soon.

Despite these statements, the article alluded to the acquiescence of the Board of Regents to receive a presentation of the PARCC program by Ken Wagner, deputy commissioner of the state Education Department. Tisch, however, downplayed the importance of the presentation, saying she doesn’t want school officials to need to worry about which exams to prepare for – PARCC or Regents.

“If we do anything to undercut that, I think that what we are doing is just going to create a lot of confusion,” she said.

The article also includes comments from Bob Lowry, of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, who said, after a one-year pen-on-paper introduction, not all of the state’s nearly 700 school districts are geared up for the digital nature PARCC.

In addition to upgrading its facilities to support the digital nature of PARCC, Latshaw said Bemus Point’s teachers are using research-based strategies in the instruction of the new Common Core curriculum.

“We feel it’s not so much about the assessment, but the quality of our teachers,” said Latshaw. “Students need to have the full range of the common core, including the standards that are difficult to measure. And (we’re) also increasing our technology to make sure our system is ready. We believe, in doing that, (the students) will be ready for those PARCC assessments.”