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Comsewogue Supe: Help Us With State Testing, or Remove Me

Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella appeals to elected officials in response to Common Core testing.

Comsewogue superintendent Joseph Rella (Photo Credit: Christine Sampson)
Comsewogue superintendent Joseph Rella (Photo Credit: Christine Sampson)
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."

Click here to read Rella's letter in full.

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 bill can be read here. 

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."
Earl August 09, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Please let's remove our local politicians if they do not act on behalf of the people they were elected to represent!
Ellen Benedetto August 09, 2013 at 03:11 PM
The whole thing is beyond ridiculous! This is certainly not the way to encourage students to STAY in school, graduate and continue on to higher learning voluntarily. It also suggests that we have never done anything in the past that worked which is more than insulting to those of us already out here in the work force who can up reading classic literature as well as modern selections. Maybe more focus and emphasis should be put on interpersonal relationships and how to appreciate different cultures and ethnicities since our children will be dealing with the global community in ways that we never had to. Im al about a return to strict basic Reading Writing and Arithmetic with an emphasis on vocabulary and basic facts that are then used in conjunction with the thought process to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. I didnt see ANYTHING in the new tests that would lead us in that direction. Upping the ante so to speak isnt in and of itself going to help those Johnnys and Jills who struggle with reading and math to improve. Mandating them to classes where we as teachers have to do TEST PREP as opposed to diagnostic evaluation and prescription is also not the answer, but rather part of the problem!
Louis Antoniello August 09, 2013 at 06:40 PM
The question I have is how do students who were 90% proficient 12 months ago suddenly become less than 40% proficient. The purpose of the exam should not be to demoralize a student, but to find out how proficient they are in "the math and English that they will need to be proficient in everyday life". If you believe these scores our students can't survive in the real world and have no chance of being accepted to a college of their choice. The purpose of educational institutions is to educate our children. Let our schools educate our children and stop this method of testing that contradicts prior tests results, it accomplishes nothing. This method of testing destroys the confidence in our students and it destroys the confidence in the group of individuals who create this type of testing. In closing, we don't want to loose Joe Rella. The man is an essential part of our school district and he would be missed.
Kathleen Shanahan August 09, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Mr LaValle didn't seem to get the point. The problem is that the tests are not evaluating proficiency and that they create a learning environment that is negative and inappropriate. It is not a matter of "school districts [rising] to meet this challenge" which implies not a restructuring but an acceptance of the tests as they are. Parents, students, and teachers will "do what is right for our students" - when the tests provide evaluations that assist and inform the teacher and can be used to determine needs of students and the course of their instruction. In the interim, law makers need to question the incongruity of these results and the deeper question of what is being created and why we are investing a fortune in a company (Pearson) that offers no data on its testing reliability.
Jim August 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM
The whole idea is for kids to get an education. Maybe the 90% pass rate of a year ago was a farce. Maybe parents over-rate their kids. One fact is true, kids today are not college prepared and I'm glad we have more challenging tests to prove that. Instead of blaming test scores, lets get teachers to teach and parents to actually get involved in their kids education. Now there's a concept!
Laura Hill Timpanaro August 10, 2013 at 12:39 PM
It seems to me, based on Newsday's recent coverage of events, that the testing was pushed forward as part of a race to the top finical grant secured in 2011. This is not the way to go. Students with workdays longer than many adults, less the one hour lunch break to use as they please, are stressed out enough. School time is not based on developing talents, it is based on regurgitating facts to produce numbers that secure funding. I speak in public schools regularly and what I have found is a lack of cooperative learning, which if administered provides a foundation and purpose to memorizing formulas, rules and codes. Paired with the lack of exploratory free time in and out of school, (most children are shuttled to and from multiple paid lessons, teams and camps after school, again big business) it's no wonder our youth are ill prepared to succeed when they leave the district. I don't propose to have all the answers but demoralizing students through testing is not the way to increase performance...and isn't that the point anyway?
Jim August 10, 2013 at 01:40 PM
You view it as demoralizing students through testing. I view it as challenging students through testing. Isn't that the point?
Jim August 10, 2013 at 01:42 PM
And furthermore, kids today can't spell, forget long division and half couldn't tell you who George Washington was. (A wide receiver for the Dolphins is my favorite answer.) How watered down do you education to go???
Earl August 10, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Jim, with all due respect, you do not have the first clue what is going on here with this entire testing debacle.
Donald Zaros August 10, 2013 at 05:48 PM
The most important elements in the education of a child is to teach respect, responsibility, self esteem, courtesy, empathy, love of country, work ethnic, physical ability, curiosity, persistence and the ability to get along with each other. The testing of their I.Q. and ability to get good test scores on their individual tests are important for their teachers and administrators to evaluate with the most important elements of their education. The state is simplistically trying to evaluate each school district to measure its academic achievement. Ask yourself why? Is it to determine how much more financial aid it will given to the lowest scored schools or how much less they will give to the other schools? From past experience the state legislature has limited aid while increasing methods to control school funding. They have also used these tactics to enrich their political position by funding many favored firms to study, evaluate and justify future decisions.
IrishJoan August 11, 2013 at 09:39 AM
Please wake up people. The testing debacle was essentially part of a master plan to create a false crisis in education so that the corporate takeover could begin. The politicians, businessmen, and pseudo educators who facilitated this travesty should be destroyed. They cannot fight drugs. They cannot fight crime. They cannot fight poverty. They cannot fight the change in the family dynamic. Instead, they create a smoke and mirrors show to deflect from real problems that they should be fighting.
Jim August 11, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Earl, don't tell me your one of the Long Island parents that beleive their little Johnny is perfect and can do know wrong. That blame everything but their spoiled kid, so please, look at yourself and your so-called parent skills before you chime in!!
IrishJoan August 11, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Jim, I was going to respond to you personally before in my comment, however, decided not to, because I knew it would fall on deaf ears. I have been happily married to Earl for almost sixteen years. Furthermore, I am the proud mother of two compassionate and wonderful children. Notwithstanding, I am one of those Long Island teachers that you seem so insanely jealous of and despise so much. When I saw your response to Earl, my first reaction was to laugh at your ignorance. How can you attack a perfect stranger with blatant assumptions? I for one am proud of my family and my profession; indeed, both take hard work and dedication, but I thank God every day for the blessings that I have been given and pray for the strength to persevere.
Jim August 11, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Joan, Read my blogs again. My references were more directed at parents. I do not despise teachers at all. Although there are many that are a disgrace to the profession. And there are many that are incredible. As a teacher, you should know that there are many parents out there that are clueless about their kids. If you do not know that as a teacher, you are oblivious to todays society and it makes me very concerned you are a teacher at all
Michele Favaro August 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM
I can only hope that Sachem's BOE/Super stand with Dr. Rella and demand to take back our education system from a corporate take-over (because this is big $$$ we are talking about). Many districts put out the PR-written State Education Dept's statement (ie: Merrick). I believe we should all be allowed to see the entire test and our children's answers. I am not a parent who believes her children are perfect. In fact, I can look at them with more love than anything and still know where their strengths and weakness is. But no one can tell me that an 8 year old is weak because they cannot take tests that many adults cannot pass or that school should be about robotic learning and not growing and learning to love learning. I am not against my children taking tests- they take them every week in school. But these tests are poorly written and purposely made for our children to FAIL. That is a big part of this problem. It is not about hard work and dedication when you are judged on something you have not even learned yet!
Earl August 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Jim, you seem to like to throw accusations around about people you do not know the first thing about, so I have come to the conclusion that you are one of the many that are being fooled by what is going on. You are right in that there are plenty of parents that are no good, there are teachers that are no good, all of that has nothing to do with what is going on here. Instead of assuming you know the people you are commenting about here, go spend time researching about what is really going on, and the corrupt politicians that are using all of us and the kids to push their careers forward, as well as make all the companies involved nice and rich.
Jim August 12, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Earl, We all know politicians,,,especially here on Long Island are beyond corrupt. If you've known what I've gone through dealing with property taxes and the 'so-called fees' that go with everything involved in living here would make you shudder. This is my last blog on the subject since I would rather take your side against politicians than vent on where our education system is heading. My point is I wish parents were more accountable in the development of their kids instead of turning a blind eye. As far as testing is concerned, it doesn't even count but if it was me taking any kind of testing, bring it on. You have to admit students today are no where near college ready. It's embarrassing to see them taking college prep courses while in college!!

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