Fonda-Fultonville school district to begin new evaluation, law tests

Fonda-Fultonville School District Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio, left, and Board Vice President Bonnie Couture, right, during the board's regular meeting on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

FONDA — At Fonda-Fultonville Central School board meeting, Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio discussed a federal public school law the district will begin implementing this school year.

The Every Child Succeeds Act was signed by former President Barack Obama on Dec. 10, 2015 to ensure success for all students in grades kindergarten through 12th. The law replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

“I want to make sure the board understands, at least on some level, how the district is evaluating on this new Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal legislation that replaced No Child Left Behind,” Ciaccio said.

Ciaccio gave an overview to board members on how districts across the state will be evaluated.

The federal program is based on $1.6 billion that will be funneling throughout different states. Ciaccio said if districts don’t join in, they will miss out on the money.

“It’s a federal law and it must include specific criteria within each state, so you need accountability, you need school improvement, you need educator development and student support, student support for students with special education needs, students as English language learners, other types of handicaps and conditions,” Ciaccio said. “These are things that every state has to follow.”

The school and students have been evaluated based on test scores. There are the third through eighth grade math and English language arts exams, and the fourth and eighth grade science exams

“That is nothing new, we have always been evaluated under that umbrella,” Ciaccio said. “The high school level we’ve only been evaluated in ELA and math and now it’s going to encompass science and social studies.”

The students will be evaluated from their best score on based on the regents exam that student took in math. If the student took three regents exams in math and their best score was in geometry, that is where the district is evaluated for that individual student.

There will be a four-year cohort graduation rate, along with fifth and sixth year rates. Ciaccio said that makes sense to him because not every student can graduate in four years.

“Some students need extra support, they need extra time,” he said. “For us, we’re okay if that child doesn’t graduate in four years. We just want to make sure they’re successful when they’re done with their education.”

School will also have to have a 95 percent participation rate on an ELA and math exam. Changes have made to testing making it from three days to two days, and teachers will now be creating the test questions.

“This is important because if you have 95 percent of your students that participate, then when they take your performance, they divide it by the number of students that equals 95 percent whether you have 95 percent or not,” Ciaccio said. “So if we have 100 students who are suppose to take the test and only 80 of them take the test and we have a performance index based on those 80 students, it’s not divided by 80, it’s going to be divided by 95. So, it’s important that we continue to, on our teacher level, talk to parents, try to educate them on how we use these exams, how they changed and how they help us plan curriculum and instruction in the future when we get the data back.”

Ciaccio said districts will be graded and ranked by the number of high school in the state and by a combination of elementary and middle schools in the state. Students will be ranked between zero and two with two being the highest ranking.

Once the schools are ranked, they are placed into one of four categories which include a comprehensive support and improvement school which is now called a focus school; targeted support and improvement; high performing school; and rapidly improving schools.

Bonnie Couture, board vice president asked if they take demographics into consideration when ranking districts.

“Again they take those different categories, in all your different subgroups and they rank them across the state, so every district is going to be ranked based on how their students with disabilities has performed. The state will set the performance for them,” Ciaccio said. “They expect every student to meet those marks. In my opinion, I think the high expectations are good. Students are reaching marks, they never dreamed they would hit because of the high expectations. So they are not saying get a free pass because of your demographics.”

Ciaccio said also being implemented for this year for school districts that have more than four schools within the district will be a per pupil expenditure on reports, which is how much money is spent per pupil in the elementary, middle and high schools. Fonda-Fultonville will have those reports starting in the 2020-21 school year.

This will create some equity, so the district isn’t spending $15,000 per student in the high school and $3,000 per student in the elementary school.