October 21, 2010

Regents' cutback of AIS is a bad idea

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications

The State Education Department may have raised the bar to identify more grade 3-8 students struggling in math and English language arts - but SED now says there's not enough money to get newly-identified students the help they need.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said the move is clearly a bad idea and "inconsistent" with SED's intention to improve student learning.

"Parents and teachers are on the same page. We're concerned students are not getting the extra help they need," Neira said. "And what will this mean for the students when they take upcoming 2011 exams?"

Neira noted the original purpose of these state tests was to identify students who needed extra help and support.

"This is no time to back away from giving students the support they need," Neira said. "At a time when state and federal officials are placing more importance on testing and demanding more accountability, we should be providing more support for students- not less."

In July, the Regents approved a plan to raise cut scores for the 2010 ELA and math exams. Across grades 3-8 statewide, the number of "proficient" students dropped from 77 percent to 53 percent in ELA and from 86 percent to 61 percent in math. Since 1999, school districts have been required to provide Academic Intervention Services, or AIS, to students scoring at levels 1 and 2.

However, at a time of severe budget cuts and no prior warning that cut scores would be raised, SED officials said districts would be unable to provide extra AIS to thousands of newly-identified students. The Regents this week agreed to grant a one-year waiver so districts will not be required to offer AIS to students who would have been deemed proficient under 2009 cut scores.