June 21, 2010

Regents approve elimination of social studies exams

Source: NYSUT News Wire

Where does NYSUT stand on test elimination?

"NYSUT does not support the elimination of any of the state assessments," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. When the State Education Department convened stakeholders to discuss possible cuts to the state assessment program, NYSUT refused to prioritize which tests could be eliminated.

"It would be a mistake to eliminate the grade 5 and 8 social studies exams," Neira said. The state's social studies standards and curriculum are built grade by grade to prepare students for high school Regents exams in Global Studies and U.S. Government, which are both required for a Regents diploma.

Earlier this year, NYSUT strongly opposed the proposed elimination of high school Regents exams, calling them the gold standard for end-of-course assessments. In April , NYSUT, along with the New York State School Boards Association and School Administrators Association of New York State, sent a letter to state lawmakers, calling for $7 million in additional funding to preserve the state's comprehensive assessment program. The groups warned that reducing the number of test administrations could lead to a lower graduation rate or a lower standard for graduation.

"We recognize the seriousness of the state deficit, but this is no time to cut funding for the state's assessment system," Neira said. "This is a time to improve the system and create better assessments to guide instruction."

About the plan

New York's 5th- and 8th-grade social studies exams will soon be history, under a plan approved Tuesday by the Board of Regents to close an $11.5 million budget deficit.

The cost-saving plan calls for a series of cuts in the state's assessment system, including the elimination of the grade 5 and 8 social studies exams administered to about 447,000 students annually. Other immediate cost-saving measures would include: eliminating component retesting in math and English Language Arts; discontinuing paper scoring materials for Regents exams and posting all scoring training materials and answer keys on-line; and reducing reliance on SED education specialists in the test development process. These measures combined would save $4.25 million during the 2010-11 school year.

State ed officials said they have asked the state Legislature for $7 million to cover the remaining gap in the assessment program budget. If the final state budget is not in place by Aug. 1, or does not include the additional $7 million, the Regents approved a second round of cuts:

- eliminate grade 8 second language proficiency exams (save $2 million);

-eliminate the August administration of the algebra 2/trigonometry and chemistry exams ($800,000);

- eliminate high school foreign language Regents exams except for Spanish and French ($1.2 million)

- immediately discontinue translating exams into Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Russian ($750,000)

- eliminate the January administration of Regents exam ($1.4 million).

"These are not the cuts we want to make," Education Commissioner David Steiner told the Regents.  "These cuts are certainly painful ... We share your frustration."

Steiner said the first exams to be eliminated must be those that are not mandated under federal No Child Left Behind, such as the grade 3-8 ELA and math tests; and those necessary for high school graduation.


Press Release: State Education Department

BOARD OF REGENTS APPROVES ASSESSMENT COST REDUCTIONS

The New York State Board of Regents voted to approve two sets of strategies to achieve cost reductions in the state assessment program at its full Board meeting in Albany today.  
  
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said, “These were tough decisions made in light of the State’s difficult financial situation.  Foremost in our consideration was the concern we heard from stakeholders across the State that the cuts to the assessment program made to achieve savings should not have an impact on high school graduation.”
  
Education Commissioner David Steiner said, “While none of us wants to see these cuts made, the Board of Regents today approved responsible and appropriate measures -- measures that will permit the core elements of our testing program to continue, while we increase the rigor of those remaining exams. The Regents and I are committed to giving tests that are better aligned to national standards and that measure the skills and knowledge necessary for success in school, college and the workplace.”   
  
Senior Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education, John King, said, “The Regents decision today was necessary in order to allow school districts the time necessary to plan and prepare  for these assessment changes in the coming academic year.”
  
In their meeting today the full Board voted to approve two strategies for cost reductions contingent upon enactment of the State budget:  
  
If the State budget includes the $7 million that the Regents have requested for the assessment program, the Board approved a cost reduction of $4.25 million to be achieved through reduced reliance on educational specialists in developing tests ($1.25 million), discontinuance of paper-based scoring materials for examinations ($.60 million), elimination of component retesting for high school Math and English exams ($1.6 million), and elimination of 5th and 8th grade Social Studies examinations ($.80 million).   

If the State budget does not include the $7 million that the Regents have requested, or a final State Budget is not in place by August 1, 2010, the Board approved additional reductions of $6.1 million to further offset the deficit.  These reductions would be achieved by eliminating Grade 8 second language proficiency exams ($2.0 million), eliminating August administration of Algebra II/Trigonometry and Chemistry high school Regents exams ($.8 million), eliminating all high school Foreign Language exams except for Spanish and French($1.2 million),  an immediate end to translation of state assessments into Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Korean, and Russian while continuing translation into Spanish ($.75 million), and eliminating January high school Regents exams ($1.4 million).

The reductions approved by the Board today are contingent upon final allocations made in the enacted State budget.  Should additional funds be included in the P-12 budget the reductions listed last in the priority order above would be the first to be restored. 
  
Background on these decisions:

The State Education Department’s expense to operate the assessment program continues to rise in light of the State’s fiscal crisis as a result of several factors including: inflation, the addition of examinations, increased cost of testing vendor contracts, and the need for more test security.  Based on the Executive Budget, SED projects a deficit of approximately $11.5 million in available funding in 2010-11 for P-12 programs, including the assessment program. The Regents have requested $7 million in additional State funds for the assessment program from the Legislature. The State Education Department has limited ability to address the P-12 deficit by redirecting federal or state funds dedicated to specific purposes by title or statute. SED will explore further internal cost reduction strategies to eliminate the remaining deficit of $1.1 million in the P-12 budget.
  
Full details of the cost reduction strategies the Board of Regents approved are on the web:
http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2010Meetings/June2010/0610emsca5.htm
  
Webcast of the full board meeting of the Board of Regents on Tuesday:
http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2010Meetings/June2010/0610emsca5.htm

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