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Important Letter to Parents Regarding Testing from Principal Stephen Fitzpatrick

posted May 1, 2015, 12:05 PM by Jason Tozer
Dear Parent/Guardian:

I am writing this letter to you to clear up some confusion about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, as well as the upcoming Science Assessment Test that is scheduled for Thursday, May 7, 2015. 

First, let me explain that all states who receive Federal Education dollars from our government, (Maine and our district receive significant Federal monies) are mandated to test all students using a Nationally Standardized or normed test to assess what students know and are able to do. Maine as well as other states is switching to this new on-line, proficiency based SBAC test and federal funding is tied to such testing.

This year is the first year that Maine and other states are transitioning to the newly developed computer-based SBAC assessment. Because of that, Maine has said to districts that it would not use this test in their own A, B, C, and D ranking of state schools this year. That ranking carried with it a required 95% test completion target for schools that when not met resulted in a lowering by a full grade (an A to a B etc) which in fact happened last year to BAHS because our test taking rate was at 94%. This practice of expecting 95% test taking rate is slated to begin again next year. BAHS strives to show our communities, our state, and our nation that our students are competitors, and that we always put forth “our best” in all that we do. Our school and students are of high quality and we are proud to showcase the same to all. Maintaining and continuously improving our educational program attracts economic development, and positive growth to our area. To tolerate a lower ranking within our control is unacceptable.

Few parents have used opting out of a test in the past. It actually should happen when there is a valid reason such as physical or psychological impairment that is affecting your student. This year with the national debate and attention about excessive testing, opt-out has been politicized and used to make a political statement. Belfast Area High School intentionally stayed away from that debate and scheduled the SBAC opportunity for all our students. Unfortunately, we have been affected by those politics as 75% of our grade 11 students, (some with, and others without parental approval and school notification protocol being followed) did not engage in this opportunity. 

No matter what philosophical position is in play nationally, BAHS has developed a schedule that allows 11th grade students the opportunity to test their individual skills with the SBAC assessment. That opportunity is part of your child’s educational programming and will be used to inform our teachers and our school improvement efforts.   

In addition, students taking that test will receive feedback on how they performed in a normed (valid) assessment, which will give them a sense of how they compare to all other students taking the assessment nationwide.

BAHS will accept parent written requests to opt your child out of SBAC testing this year and if you have already provided that written request to the school your student will not take the second SBAC test scheduled for May 20, 2015. If you have not provided a written request your student will be scheduled for that opportunity and expected to engage in the same.

On a related test matter, the 12th annual state Science Assessment Test is scheduled for next Thursday, May 7. This is the traditional paper and pencil test provided by the state Department Of Education and is state mandated. This test should be taken by all 11th grade BAHS students as we do have year-to-year comparative data that is extremely significant and appropriate. BAHS is scheduling two (2) one hour (approx.) sessions for that test. BAHS has elected to differentiate the opt-out written SBAC requests from that test session. If it is your intention that your child not take that specific test please submit in writing your expectation and rationale for the same, and as always, please call and/or stop by to visit us anytime you have questions or concerns. 
BAHS and I continue to be proud of your children, as they truly are “the best”.

Respectfully yours,

Stephen J. Fitzpatrick
Stephen J. Fitzpatrick, Principal, Belfast Area High School