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Proficiency assessment policy requires review

Date: 12/10/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — East Longmeadow High School Principal Gina Flanagan recently called upon the School Committee to review and amend a policy regarding proficiency assessments in the high school.

Flanagan told Reminder Publications that assessments that are currently offered for history, science, math, English language arts and foreign language, allow advanced students the opportunity to move on to more challenging classes.

"The way it works is the students could take the test and if they score high enough, they wouldn't have to take that class," she said. "While it's been working well in math and foreign language, it gets murky when it comes to science and the social sciences."

Flanagan explained that the main source of the issue is the new Common Core State Standards Initiative.

"With the Common Core standards, there's a whole piece where students are expected to show their abilities with collaboration," she said. "In discussions with our teachers, we determined that we can't assess that through the test. We decided that in certain subjects, having kids test out is not in their best interest."

Flanagan added that many science courses also contain lab components that are not included in testing and therefore an exam would not display a student's complete abilities with regards to the subject matter.

"Labs are an important element to a lot of our science curriculum and it is our belief that science is one of those subjects that can't be assessed in a one-shot deal," she said.

Graduation standards are another issue, Flanagan

"Some courses are mandated graduation requirements," she said. "When we sign off on a transcript, we're essentially saying that the student took and passed the course."

Flanagan said she realized that there were rare cases when students are head and shoulders above their peers, but stated that the onus is on the teachers to take a personalized approach to education in order to challenge gifted students.

Any change to the policy would take effect for the 2013-2014 school year.

Richard Freccero, chair of the School Committee and former East Longmeadow High School principal who helped draft the current policy, could not be reached for comment as of press time.