State Assessments in Math & ELA Scheduled for Grades 3-8 from April 14 Through April 24
Due to inquiries we have received recently about the upcoming New York State Assessments, we are providing the following information on this complex matter to all parents of children in Grades 3 through 8. In doing so, we hope to be able to set the record straight, to the extent of our understanding, to encourage student participation in the upcoming State assessment program, and to assist parents in making informed choices in support of their children’s participation.
First off, please be aware that the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that State tests be administered in English language arts and mathematics in Grades 3-8, and in science at least once during Grades 3–5 and 6–9. In accordance with the federal requirements and Sections 100.3 and 100.4 of the State Commissioner’s regulations, the New York State Education Department requires that all students in public and charter schools in Grades 3–8 must take all State assessments administered for their grade level. This includes students who were retained in these grades.
According to the New York State Education Department, “State testing is considered an important part of instruction in education programs. It provides an evaluation of student mastery of content and skills in various courses of study and helps shape future instruction. Tests are considered part of a ‘course of study’ under a Board of Education’s authority and, as noted above, are included as part of the program requirements for students in Grades 3–8 under Sections 100.3 and 100.4 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.”
With certain exceptions (specified under the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment 20 U.S.C. 1232h), there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to “opt out” their children from State tests. According to the New York State Education Department, “The failure to comply with the requirements provided above will have a negative impact on a school or a school district’s accountability, as all schools are required to have a 95% or better participation rate in State testing.”
Students who “refuse” to participate in taking a State test, either through their personal decision or under the direction of their parents in writing, must be identified as such in the District’s test data reported to the State Education Department. These “refusals” impact the school district’s ability to meet the requirement that 95% or more of its eligible students take the State tests. They also make it difficult for the school or school district to avoid being designated as not making adequate yearly academic progress and, therefore, requiring a plan for improvement, in spite of our students’ level of achievement.
To the best of our knowledge and understanding, if a school has one or more subgroups of students that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for three successive years, as measured by an increase in State assessment scores, it will be designated as a “Local Assistance Plan (LAP) school.” More to the point, increased achievement notwithstanding, if fewer than 95% of a school’s or a school district’s eligible students do not participate in the assessments for three successive years, regardless of the achievement of the students who take the assessments, it will be designated as a “LAP school” as well. Regardless of the reason, a school designated as a “LAP school” will be required to participate in a Local Assistance Plan development process and will be subject to being designated as a school needing improvement, along with the increased State oversight that this would entail.
As the result of a three-year pattern of failing to have at least 95% of students take the State assessments over a multi-year period, a school or a school district designated as a “LAP school” would be required to divert educational and financial resources in order to engage in a planning process to increase student participation to the required participation rate in State testing.
Currently, it is unclear as to whether or not a school’s rate of participation below 95% in taking the annual State assessments might have a negative financial impact, either directly or indirectly, on a school district’s budget. The possibility of a loss in federal funding, i.e. for Title I and Special Education programs, could result in a reallocation of financial and educational resources to support these mandated yet possibly underfunded programs, should this occur.