December 2013/January 2014 - APPR/Teacher Evaluation, Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
December 17, 2013

Despite loud outcry over tests, changes come in a whimper

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

With testing policies drawing more and more public outcry, the Regents are proposing some minor changes in testing policies - but nowhere near what's needed, union leaders said.

"It is disappointing that the Board of Regents met for two days and only superficially acknowledged the mounting frustration and anger among parents and educators over the state's obsession with standardized testing and all that has gone wrong with the implementation of the Common Core," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said after the Regents' November meeting.

"While we support the recommended changes, a tremendous disconnect exists between the minor adjustments proposed by Education Commissioner John King and approved by the Regents, and the clamor by students, parents and educators for meaningful and major course corrections and a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences for students and teachers."

What they did

Specifically, the Regents agreed to trim 20 minutes from the total time scheduled for grades 3-8 math assessments that will be given this spring. The state also plans to cut the number of questions in the grades 5-8 English language arts exams but keep the time the same.

The Regents also tentatively approved a plan that would shorten state tests in spring 2015 by reducing the number of field questions included. To cut down on trial questions, the Regents will request about $12 million in extra funding from the Legislature. The money would allow SED to increase the number of versions of each test administered from four to about 10.

The state is also trying to reduce testing by requesting a federal waiver to allow advanced eighth-graders and some seventh-graders to take only the algebra Regents exam rather than that exam plus the seventh- or eighth-grade state math test.

The Regents are planning to request a federal waiver to let some students with disabilities be tested based on their instructional level rather than their chronological age. And they are seeking funding so some English language learners can take exams in their native languages. However, neither of these relief measures are likely to be approved in time for this spring's testing.

What we say

Iannuzzi strongly objects to King's claim that state policies are not the driving force behind obsessive standardized testing but rather the result of local decisions.

"Trying to shift the blame to school districts that had attempted to follow

SED's own guidance once again will fool no one and will further erode confidence in SED's decision-making," Iannuzzi said. "The growing calls for a moratorium while significant changes in implementation and assessment are undertaken must be heeded or the very standards the commissioner so vehemently supports will be lost."

What you can do

Take active steps to get to know your local Regent, monitor their actions and let them know what you think. Visit www.regents.nysed.gov/members/findrep.html to find out who your Regent is. You can also watch monthly meetings, check agendas or send emails via www.regents.nysed.gov.