Questions and Answers on the New York State Assessment Program
Since the mid-1800s, New York State has been assessing students in schools around the state. The original Regents examinations were given to students in junior and senior high schools. Over the decades the Regents examinations have evolved into end of course assessments of skills and knowledge at the commencement level. More recently the State designed content tests to measure the skills and knowledge of students at the elementary and intermediate levels.
This Question and Answer guide is intended to help you understand the New York State Assessment Program.
1. What is the New York State Assessment Program?
The program is designed to meet the policies of the New York State Board of Regents as required by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB).
- The New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severely cognitive disabilities; and
- The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) for English language learners (required for Title III).
All required elementary, intermediate and commencement Title I assessments (ELA, math, science, and the alternate assessment) have undergone a formal United States Education Department Title I Peer Review and the State is fully approved.
The New York State Assessment Program requires that all students with disabilities and English language learners to participate in the State Assessment Program with appropriate testing accommodations.
The New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) is administered to students with severe cognitive disabilities. The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) is administered to English language learners to measure their proficiency in English.
2. What are the purposes of the tests?
The tests are designed to measure how well students have mastered necessary skills and to monitor the effectiveness of instructional programs. The purpose of tests is to:
- Measure a student's knowledge and overall achievement;
- Measure a student's mastery of specific skills;
- Provide information to schools that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs; and
- Monitor the performance of schools and school districts for the purpose of accountability to the public.
3. What is the 2001 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB)?
The goal of NCLB is to improve the quality of education nationally by increasing accountability for states, school districts, and schools. Under the legislation, all states that receive federal funding are required to test students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, in grades 3 through 8 and once at the commencement level in English language arts and mathematics in order to measure yearly progress.
The tests must be aligned with the New York State Learning Standards. The data gathered from test results are used to measure whether or not a school or school district is making adequate yearly progress in achieving state standards.
4. What are the required New York State assessments?
The State has also developed assessments for The Arts: Music, Dance, Theater, and Visual Arts, physical education, home and career skills, and technology education. These tests are available, but are not mandated by the State.
5. Who develops the New York State tests?
The Grades 3 – 8 English language arts and mathematics tests are developed by New York State teachers with the assistance of SED staff and CTB McGraw-Hill. The elementary and intermediate and Regents level exams are developed by New York State teachers with the assistance of SED staff and Riverside Company.
New York State teachers and researchers from the testing companies conduct extensive reviews of each test question, approving only those questions that are judged to be of the highest quality and in alignment with New York State Learning Standards.
The test questions are field tested on students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, in New York State classrooms to ensure that the directions are clear and easy to follow, the material is interesting to students, and the tests are reliable indicators of student achievement. Real world material, such as graphics and charts, advertisements, articles, and magazine stories are used to engage the students and reflect the work they do on a daily basis.
6. Who scores the tests?
New York State teachers score the tests. Teacher scorers receive training in understanding the scoring guide and practice scoring field tested questions. The training ensures the accuracy of student scores.
7. What do the scores mean?
The New York State Assessment Program helps determine the progress students are making. The test results provide the student, teacher, parents and families with an objective report of individual student strengths and weaknesses in a variety of skill areas. These test results give teachers, schools, and school districts information they can use to improve teaching and provide additional assistance to students who need it.
8. How are the scores reported?
Schools and school districts receive report cards. These are annual reports that provide information on how well schools and school districts are doing in helping students meet the learning standards. Copies of the New York State Report Card for all school districts in New York State can be found at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/.
9. Are students with disabilities and English language learners provided with accommodations?
Schools and school districts are required to provide testing accommodations for students with disabilities. These accommodations are recommended by the Committee on Special Education and specified in each student's Individualized Education Program (IEP), or in a Section 504 Accommodation Plan (504 Plan.)
Certain testing accommodations are not permitted for some sections of the tests because these accommodations would change what the test is measuring. For example, reading to a student the portions of the English language arts test in grades 3 through 8 intended to measure a student's reading ability would not be a permissible testing accommodation. However, students taking the Comprehensive Examination in English at the required for graduation may have the reading portions read to them. Students with disabilities who are also English language learners will receive both the IEP accommodations and the English language learner accommodations appropriate for State testing.
There are approved accommodations for English language learners on most New York State tests. The elementary and intermediate tests and Regents exams in mathematics, social studies, and science are available in Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. If a test is not available in the language of the student, the school may provide an interpreter. For the English language arts tests, accommodations for English language learners may include allowing for extra time, separate test locations, and the use of bilingual glossaries.
10. What changes to the New York State Assessment Program have been approved by the Board of Regents?
The New York State Board of Regents approved recommendations to redesign the New York State Testing Program to incorporate formative and interim assessments, increase rigor, and expand to new 21st century "literacies."
According the Regents, an effective assessment system provides:
- Evidence of each student's progress in mastering the fundamental skills and knowledge required at the appropriate grade level;
- Timely, accurate, and actionable information on the basis of which teachers can design and implement differentiated instructional strategies; and
- Performance-based opportunities for students to demonstrate metacognitive thinking skills, the capacity to conduct research, the ability to engage in effective teamwork, the ability to present work in multiple formats, and 21st century literacies (including the use of multimedia technology.)
General information regarding the New York State Assessment System can be accessed at the Office of Standards, Assessments, and Reporting: http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/sar/