In a special networking meeting with NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, BOCES leaders said administering the state's new Common Core-aligned alternate assessment is a cruel and ridiculous waste of time for students with severe disabilities who are not even close to grade level.
"We're not fearful of evaluation, but we're just doing it wrong. The emphasis has to be on student growth," said Rockland BOCES TA's Debbie Kydon. "Giving my student who reads at a first-grade reading level the fifth-grade test is damaging to the child, and as the practitioner I learn absolutely nothing about where the child is."
Neira said the State Education Department is seeking a waiver from the federal government to test students with special needs at their developmental level, but the move is opposed by some advocates who fear students with special needs will be ignored if testing is "watered down."
Neira said NYSUT successfully pressed SED to seek the federal waiver, which is pending.
A number of leaders said the tax cap and financial pressure on school districts are causing many administrators to restrict enrollment in BOCES programs. "Business managers are viewing BOCES as an elective," said Southern Westchester BOCES TA's Jerry Murphy. "They're cutting programs way back while the demand is there."
Neira said NYSUT is pushing the Regents hard to promote career and technical education. "They keep talking about college- and career- ready, but all they focus on is college, not career," Neira said.
NYSUT is also urging the Legislature to sweeten BOCES aid to encourage more districts to send students to BOCES, she said.
— Sylvia Saunders