Thousands of New York students will take one less state test this year, thanks to a federal waiver that allows the state to eliminate some “double testing.”
The change will affect roughly 60,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students who take Regents math courses. Currently, those students take the state math test that’s required by federal law, as well as the Regents math exam. The state will now be able to use the Regents exam to fulfill the federal testing requirement for those students.
“The regents, the chancellor and I are committed to reducing the amount of time students spend on tests and eliminating any tests that don’t inform instruction or improve student learning,” said State Education Commissioner John King. “Testing is an important part of the instructional cycle, and good, sound assessments are necessary to monitor student academic progress. But we have repeatedly said that the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making. Our successful waiver request is an example of New York’s commitment to smarter, leaner testing.”
Many parents and some teachers have been critical of the number of, and emphasis on, the standardized tests.
Although happy that the state received the waiver, parent Eric Mihelbergel from the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District said the exemption doesn’t go far enough. Mihelbergel is one of the founding members of the New York State Allies for Public Education, which aims to remove high stakes from standardized tests.
“It’s a Band-Aid,” he said. “That’s just a scratch on the surface. It’s not really addressing the issue at all.”
The math assessment is one of the annual tests states are required to administer under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That law required states to administer annual reading and math exams to students in third through eighth grades, as well as in certain high school grades.
That law significantly increased the number of tests New York students take. Prior to the state’s implementation of No Child, New York students only took standardized tests in the fourth and eighth grades.
The federal testing requirement also meant that advanced students taking Regents math courses in seventh and eighth grades took two state math exams each year.
Opposition to the standardized testing has been amplified as New York rolled out the new Common Core standards. With the standards, the state has adopted newer, tougher state tests, and most school districts in New York saw their students’ performance dramatically drop.
“Part of it is the number of state tests they give, so I appreciate whatever they can do to eliminate the redundancy,” said Wendy Mistretta, a Buffalo parent who also serves as parliamentarian of the District Parent Coordinating Council and is running for the Buffalo School Board. “I’m also concerned with the reliability and whether it accurately measures what students learn. If the tests are reliable, you should only need a minimum of them.”
Members of the public will have an opportunity to express their concerns about the Common Core during a forum next week with lawmakers. The forum will be at 6 p.m. Monday at Niagara County Community College, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn.
“It has become clear that there are significant problems in the classroom that need to be addressed,” said Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, one of the lawmakers hosting the forum. “I will use this forum to listen to the concerns of parents, students and teachers so we can come up with solutions that prepare our children for a successful future.”