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More principals pledge not to use test scores to admit students

More principals have committed to ignoring test scores when selecting students for admission, in a growing show of concern about the state’s new Common Core-aligned reading and math tests.

Principals began making the commitment last week, but the number grew on Tuesday when letters explaining the policy change went out to “Elementary and Middle School Families, Students, Teachers, Parent Coordinators, Counselors and Principals” who might be affected by it. Now, 15 principals of selective schools across the city have said they will not consider scores on tests that they say did not meet their expectations.

“We appreciate that officials at the New York City Department of Education seem open to hearing our concerns and we hope for the same response from the state,” the letter says.

The principals are part of a larger group who sent a letter to State Education Commissioner John King this week expressing concerns about the tests. They say they want the state’s tests to be shorter, open to public scrutiny, and more aligned to the Common Core, which emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving over recall and the completion of rote processes.

That letter had 50 signatories, including several principals from outside of New York City and one principal of a city charter school, St. Hope Leadership Academy.

Few of the principals who have sworn not to use test scores to screen students have made scores a major criterion in the past. Kelly McGuire, the principal of Lower Manhattan Middle School, said his school had previously used counted test scores as one of eight equal admission criteria. Now, only seven factors will count.

At schools where test scores have factored more heavily into admissions decisions, making the same pledge is less straightforward, East Side Community High School Principal Mark Federman said last week. Federman was one of the organizers of the letter-writing campaign.

Still, he said, principals there could facilitate an important discussion about the role of test scores.

“If there’s a school and parents that are boycotting the test, and yet the school is using tests to let kids in, I think that’s a good conversation for that community to have,” Federman said.

These principals have committed to changing their admissions process starting next year:

Rex Bobbish, of The Cinema School
Kourtney Boyd, of The School for the Urban Environment
Sonhando Estwick, of Tompkins Square Middle School
Mark Federman, of East Side Community School
Rosemarie Gaetani, of Simon Baruch Middle School
Stacy Goldstein, of School of the Future Middle School
Ramon Gonzalez, of The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology
Peter Karp, of Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE)
Herb Mack, of Urban Academy Laboratory High School
Kelly McGuire, of Lower Manhattan Middle School
George Morgan, of Technology, Arts and Science Studio (TASS) Middle School
Lisa Nelson, of Isaac Newton Middle School
Taeko Onishi, of Lyons Community School
John O’Reilly, of Arts & Letters
Jeanne Rotunda, of West Side Collaborative Middle School

And here’s the complete letter that the principals sent on Tuesday. (The letter to King is here.)

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