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School leaders weigh in on low test scores in Buffalo Schools

WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo School leaders are not surprised by the huge drop in standardized test scores. In Buffalo -- only 11% of students in Grades three through eighth met or exceeded the ELA standard and just over 9% met or exceeded in math.  WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says the results are being referred to as a new baseline for the recently implemented Common Core Standards.

"We need to consider this as the first step in the new 21st century learning standards and expectations of our students," said Barbara Seals Nevergold, president of the Buffalo Board of Education. 

Seals Nevergold noted that they were informed in the spring these results would drop, but said she it should not reflect a teachers performance in the classroom.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold

"The issue is a year is not enough time.  We know that it is going to take more than a year," said Seals Nevergold. People have to understand it doesn't happen over night."

State regents chancellor emeritus Bob Bennett says the new test scores is like comparing apples to oranges.  Bennett said its time for parents to start asking questions about how schools and teachers will make changes to improve those scores.

"I think they should greet it with a log of questions what are you going to do about it and who's going to do what about it," said Bennett.

Bennett said the new, rigorous standards must be followed.  He said now is the time for Buffalo teachers and principals to use the data to figure out how to students back on track.

WBFO News asked city school board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak if it is a daunting task for teachers to turnaround these low results.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo School Board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak & Board president Barbara Seals Nevergold respond to low test scores.

"Well you know it's evident that the scores are not where we want them to be," said Kapsiak. " but it is also evident with the wraparound services we will be getting, the scores will go up. I don't have any doubt about that in my mind, and  and we are up to the task."

New York State and Kentucky implemented Common Core without time for teachers and students to learn.  Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says the should have developed a curriculum first  -- like the rest of the states before the testing was conducted.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo Teachers Federation president Phil Rumore reacting to low test scores.

"Personally, I think first the rest of the country decided to develop a curriculum first before they tested. I think it was a mistake to do it but it's done and we have to move forward,' said Rumore. "We knew this was going to happen."

Rumore is hopefully the Common Core Standards will be reflective of what students need, but he's not convinced. 

Rumore and the other local school leaders made their comments after attending Wednesday's quarterly update for Buffalo's Say Yes to Education -- a  program guaranteeing a college education for every Buffalo Public School student. It appears this first round of new Common Core testing scores won't effect the program.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Gene Chasin,chief operating officer of Say Yes to Education says low test scores should not effect program.

Gene Chasin is chief operating officer for Say Yes to Education.  Chasin does not believe this will hinder the scholarship program.

"If anything, we have a more robust data system to inform whether students are post secondary ready," said Chasin.

The new common core standards have been frustrating for some Buffalo parents.

State Assembly woman Crystal Peoples Stokes of Buffalo notes parents have called to complain. Peoples Stokes has some tough criticism for the new standards. 

"Adults or regents or whomever are making these decisions to change things on a regular basis should stop doing that," said Peoples Stokes.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo is also critical of the education department's process in implementing common core.

"One thing I know for sure it demoralizes the students, who are told they are doing poor. It demoralizes teachers," said Ryan. "And it demoralizes the taxpayers who pay for their school system."

But in the midst of this poor test scores, the Buffalo School District said the graduation rate has improved. Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown released what she noted are "preliminary" high school graduation rates for the city.  According to the District -- the graduation rate rose to a little more than 53% from last year.  It was at 47.8% in 2012.