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City school encouraging students to take state tests

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

As the so-called 'opt out' movement is expected to rev up with next week's English Arts Assessment, one Buffalo Public school is encouraging students to take the tests. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley talked to the principal at West Hertel Academy. 

Principal Cecelie Owens tells WBFO News the school will hold a pep rally today to encourage students not to opt out of state assessments.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Principal Cecelie Owens tells WBFO News the school will hold a pep rally Friday to encourage students not to opt out of state assessments.

“I spent a lot of time last year, when the parents came and the said ‘well I want to opt my child out of’, I had a talk with them,” said Owens. “We would have a conversation and, by the time they left my office, the kid was taking the test, so I think it is about really the parents don’t understand the importance of the test or what the test is even about.”

Owens and teachers are working to improve student performance.  Owens noted when assessments are being administer she and staffers are highly visible.

“I’m highly visible every day, but during assessments, we’re walking around and we’re checking in these classrooms because the kids get frustrated, but one thing that’s good this year, the time limit has changed, so if the kids are being productive while they’re taking the assessments they could have that extended time,” explained Owens. 

The school houses 900-students in Pre-k through 8th.  35-percent of the students are English Language Learners representing several countries. But unlike schools struggling with language barriers, Owens explains successes.   

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
35-percent of West Hertel students are English Language Learners, representing several countries.

“But we have ENL, English as a New Language teacher at every grade level, so we have a teacher that works very closely with the classroom teacher. They plan and they collaborate and they also pull those kids out and work with them on their language,” said Owens. 

West Hertel has also boosted its attendance to nearly 95-percent, one of the highest in the city school district.  An attendance teacher visits homes and talks with parents when a child is not in class. The school also provides incentives. Classrooms with perfect attendance celebrate with a pizza parties and get a banner to place over their classroom door.

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