Charter School of Inquiry Deserves Renewal of its Application from the State

by Kat Massey

Rod Watson’s recent commentary, in The Buffalo News  titled “Charter school does everything right, but that isn’t reflected on state tests” was commendable. He spotlighted the situation the Charter School of Inquiry (CSI) is facing. It’s awaiting the results of their charter renewal application from the State.

The school’s learning environment is fortified, with the “infusion” of incorporating the contributions and accomplishments of Blacks, as an important part of the everyday curriculum. Students’ natural curiosity and questions are building blocks for instruction. Confidence-building techniques are on-going.

In spite of the preceding, figuratively, the “Grinch” that hovers over CSI is the students low scores on the State’s Math and English Language Arts (ELA) “proficiency” tests. (Notable: 92% of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged.)

Mr. Watson’s final comments, rightfully, are CSI should be given more time to prove that the two goals (ie, cultural infusion, ELA and Math improvements) are not incompatible.

My conclusion is in regard to the matter of large numbers of students missing the “proficiency” goal in ELA and Math testing. (A few years ago, it was about 30 percent in New York State.)

Proficiency, by simple definition, is a high degree of skills or expertise, Diane Ravitch, a former appointee, by President Obama, to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)  reported in her book, “Reign of Error,” her observation was a student who is “proficient” earns [continuously] a solid A  and not less than a strong B+ for each grade level assessed. 

In that vein, it appears that the State’s determination of “proficiency” for ELA and Math, based solely on Spring assessment tests, is questionable. And, their expectation for a majority of students, statewide, to perform at the above high marks seems unrealistic.

Certainly, very good reading, writing, comprehension and communication skills are critical to a high degree. But, for many students, gaining computer skills would most likely be more beneficial than Math proficiency.

She includes, “there is only one authoritative measure of academic performance over time, and that is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It’s part of the US Department of Education. 

Furthermore, Ms. Ringle revealed NAEP only samples a “randomly selected” group of students for assessments. (In contrast, “all” Grades 3 to 8 New York State students are tested.) No student gets a test score. Results can be reported by “scale scores” [0 to 500] which only reflect what students know and can do. But, no judgment is offered on the scores.

The State on the other hand, defying common sense, has previously labeled
entire Buffalo schools as failing ones,  based on assessment tests results that unfairly included English Language Learners and Special Needs students.