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Guest viewpoint: state testing

How will we know if the 3-8 ELA and math state tests raise educational standards; get our students ready for college and a career and accurately measure a teacher’s effectiveness? There has been no consistency or continuity and there is no indication that there will be. Determining classroom success is not as simple as the students taking a test, looking at the scores and addressing their weaknesses based on those scores.

In the last eight years these tests have been administered in January, March, May and now April. During one school year, the administration dates were changed after the school year began. The number of questions and sections on the tests, as well as the length of time to complete the tests have been changed annually.

The raw score a student gets has no correlation to the final score from grade to grade or year to year. When you ask for an explanation of what the scaled score means or what formula is used to create the scores, testing and state education representatives will say they can’t tell you or they don’t know.

When the students take the tests this month, the tests will be scored regionally and shipped to Albany within two weeks. The test results will not be released by the state for another three months. Regents exams follow the same scoring process and schools have those results in 24 hours. What exactly are they doing with the test results in Albany for three months? The tests this year are more difficult and schools have been told to expect this year’s scores to drop 30%-40%. That might be disconcerting if we knew what the scores meant to begin with.

It’s no wonder there is a growing movement by parents to “opt out” from having their children tested in grades 3-8. The State Education Department recently sent a letter stating that parents may not have their children opt out. While technically accurate, it was also misleading and seems to indicate that NYSED knows there is a problem. The law requires that the tests be administered and schools are required to have 95% participation or the school gets penalized. If a child refuses to take the test, there are no repercussions for the child. The school is held accountable, not the student. The tests are not required for promotion the way that Regents exams are for graduation.

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