NY State Assessments in ELA and Math Scheduled for Grades 3-8 from April 5 Through April 15, 2016
Regarding this year's New York State Assessments in ELA and Math, scheduled to be administered starting Tuesday, April 5 and ending by Friday, April 15, 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 provide accurate information, to the extent of our understanding, to encourage and support student participation in the upcoming State assessment program this year, and to assist parents in making informed choices in support of their children’s participation.
What Has Changed
Since the departure of State Education Commissioner Dr. John King and the arrival of his successor, Dr Mary Ellen Elia, a number of changes have been made to the State assessment regimen, to the approval of some, though not all, parents and educators.
The assessments have fewer questions than in prior years. They are untimed, providing more time for students to demonstrate what they know without the pressure of the clock. There are also no consequences for teacher or principal evaluations regarding student achievement as measured by the 2016 assessments. In addition, input from New York State teachers has been solicited to inform the construction of the assessment questions. More teacher input into assessment construction and a quicker turn-around of test data to inform instruction at the local level has been pledged by Commissioner Elia.
The full text of Commisssioner Elia's press release can be accessed at the following link: Changes to State Assessments - Commissioner Elia
What Hasn't Changed
Please be aware that the federal No Child Left Behind Act required 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 new ESSA 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. It also should be noted that administration of the State Assessments does not take up the entire school day. Students who do not attend school on the day of a State assessment miss important instructional time outside of the testing period.
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 may 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 may 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 the development and implementation of a Local Assistance Plan 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.
It remains 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 federal education aid and, therefore on the school district's budget. The possibility of a loss in federal funding, i.e. for Title I and Special Education programs, could result in the reallocation of financial and educational resources to support these mandated yet possibly underfunded programs, should this occur.