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Mount Pleasant Schools Fight Against Mandates

THORNWOOD, N.Y. – The Mount Pleasant Central School District continues to fight for relief to unfunded mandates related to state testing that Schools Superintendent Susan Guiney says costs the district about $50,000 a year and takes valuable instruction time away from students.

“I would estimate that the students lose about two to three weeks of instruction time,  which is tough to make up,” Guiney said.

In addition to the time lost by the required standardized tests, Guiney said that students in Westlake Middle School, Hawthorne Elementary School and Columbus Elementary school also participated in a field-test administered by Pearson, the education company that provides the standardized tests each year. The hour-long test was given by Pearson to try out questions for future exams and holds no instructional benefit or impact on the students.  This week, parent-teacher associations from area school districts such as Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Ossining among others created a coalition against Pearson claiming that the education company owes as much as $20,000 to each district for the lost instruction time and cost of administering.

Guiney said that the Mount Pleasant Central School District currently has no plans to join this coalition and that they were informed the field-test was required.

“The New York State Education Department informed us that they would be participating in this field-test and that we couldn’t opt out of it and that they were not voluntary,” Guiney said.

Guiney added that the district continues to fight the costs related to the standardized tests that are given to students in grades three through eight by working with local legislators and the district's parent-teacher association. Guiney said the loss of instruction time and funds come during the time of scoring the exams. While teachers are working to score their students’ tests, paid substitute teachers are brought in to cover their classrooms. Each teacher is also required to go through paid training on how to properly score the exams each year.

Guiney said the situation leaves the district in a tough scenario of whether to bring subs in to the classroom while teachers score the exams or leave the teachers in the classroom and hire an outside party to score the exam.

“Paying the substitutes may be a cheaper alternative, but hiring an outside party leaves the teacher in the classroom,” Guiney said, who added that the district is currently weighing both options going forward.  “Because although a lesson plan is left with the substitute and the curriculum is being covered, we all know that it’s not the same because that same student-teacher relationship isn’t there.”

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