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Elia calls for more test time

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is calling for more time for students to complete state-testing this year.  Commissioner Elia made her remarks as she testified  at a state budget hearing in Albany Wednesday. 

Commissioner Elia said students in 3rd through 8th grade should get the time they need to complete a test as long as they are 'working productively'.  

Elia explained to state lawmakers that her department is making 'major changes' to the tests this year. 

"And I hope that parents and teachers and districts across the state are getting that word out," stated Elia as she responded to reporter questions following her testimony.

Last year about 200,000 students 'opted out' state-wide of mandatory tests. Elia noted she has heard from parents and teachers across the state about the time stresses, especially on younger children.

"I've been traveling for seven months and listening to people, and as I came back to Albany, working with the regents, I've made recommendations to them that they have put into place and I think it has helped us. We have a ways to go and I think we all need to work together on it," said Elia.  

Elia also referred to a tough warning from the U.S. Department of Education Department warning of penalizing the state of funding when students 'opt out' of state tests.

"The letter that was referred to in the testimony was a serious letter from the U.S. D.O.E. indicating clearly that there are ramifications. I think we have to work diligently to have our parents and our teachers and our staffs understand the importance of the assessments, to give kids feedback, to give us feedback on how well we are doing," explained Elia.

Elia also told state lawmakers they should increase funding for education by $2.4-billion. Elia wants more funding for Pre-Kindergarten programs, teacher training and help for English language learners. 

Elia said she is hearing from districts across the state of 'incredible' constraints and problems in the future without more funding. 

The Governor's proposed budget plan calls for a more than $900-million increase in education funding for the upcoming fiscal year, but Elia said that will not work.

"With the constraints in the tax cap and with the proposal that's now the official budget that's out that will now being reviewed, that if that goes through there will be some real substantial cuts and changes in programing and I think that would be very detrimental to children," stated Elia.

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