Over the past few days, parents all across New York State have read about falling test scores as results of last year's assessments were released by the State Department of Education.
While the numbers were no surprise, the widespread, dramatic drop in scores has led Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella to demand his elected officials to help enact change, or to begin proceedings to remove him from office.
"Please help us," he wrote in an Aug. 7 letter, which was sent to state Sens. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson; John Flanagan, R-Smithtown, and Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket. "If not, then I request on behalf of our residents – your constituents – you initiate proceedings to have me removed as superintendent. IF this system is truly valid, then during my tenure as superintendent, our students went from about 90 percent proficient to about 30 percent proficient."
The letter hit the Internet at a viral speed from Thursday into Friday, with one local superintendent asking a reporter if he had seen it yet (he hadn't), and links to the letter popping up on local and non-local Facebook community pages alike.
Rella begins the two-page letter recalling a common saying – and turning it upside-down.
"We've all heard the saying, 'If it sounds too good to be true – IT IS!'" he writes. "I believe the converse is also correct: 'It if sounds to bad to be true – IT'S NOT!' And so it is with test scores. They are not true."
Rella – on vacation this week and unavailable for comment – cites the impact on children themselves as the "line" the state has crossed in its implementation of standardized testing.
"The majority of young children will receive the clear message that since these tests are predictors of college success – they are not college material in the 3rd, 4th, 5th grade???!!! That message is unconscionable. It is hurtful to our children."
While LaValle has no plans to remove Rella, he does plan on re-introducing a bill (which died in the Education Committee last year) that would "ensure that the tests are fair, unbiased, grade level appropriate and administered properly."
The Port Jefferson Republican offered the following statement: "This is our new reality and I am confident our school districts will rise to meet this challenge as they have in the past, and will be joined by parents, students, and teachers who will all work together, and do what is right for our students."