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Education

ELA & math will remain at three days for now

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WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
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There will be no changes for standardized tests for 3rd through 8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics at least for the next couple of years. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and members of the Board of Regents announced Monday the length of those tests will remain at three days this and next school year. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley has the reaction.

“That’s very perplexing. I don’t get what they’re after,” stated Todd Hathaway, East Aurora High School Teacher. Hathaway served on Governor Cuomo's Common Core Task Force, which called for an overhaul of the learning standards.

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Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
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Inside a West Seneca school classroom last school year.

Critics of the tests were hoping to see fewer testing days. Elia and state education officials said they collected feedback from 'countless educators and parents,’ but after an extensive review, determined shortening test days would not be ‘feasible’ in generating helpful growth comparisons in measuring student performance. 

“After listening to the concerns and feedback from countless educators and parents, last year we made significant changes to the ELA and math tests to reduce the pressure for children and provide educators with more information about the tests than ever before,” Commissioner Elia said. “While we closely examined shortening the testing days based on this feedback, our expert analysis determined it would not be feasible to do that and still be able to have meaningful growth comparisons for students, schools or statewide. We will reexamine shortening the testing days as part of designing the tests for the state’s new learning standards.” 

But Hathaway tells WBFO News he disagrees with the commissioner.

“It just seems like this is kind of bureaucratic inertia and a lack of will upon SED and the Regents to actually hear concerns of parents and educations,” Hathaway replied.

Sam Radford, president of Buffalo’s District Parent Coordinating Council, agrees with the education department's decision.

“I’m happy they made a decision to keep the assessments the same for two years so we can find out what impact the standards are having,” said Radford.

Radford tells WBFO he believes taking away a day of testing right now would harm data in tracking student achievement in the city school district.

“If we were to change the tests again, we still would go through another year of not having that apples to apples comparison, so that longitudinal data is very important to be able to know if our children are progressing or not,” Radford explained

Radford pointed out the state has already made major changes to the assessments this year with shorter tests and unlimited time for students.

Both Radford and Hathaway said it is hard to determine if keeping the math and ELA tests at three days will once again jumpstart the 'Opt Out' movement next Spring. But Commissioner Elia did indicate they will consider moving to two-day tests in 2019 and will review the possibility of adding multiple measures of student achievement into the assessments. 

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) said it believes the State Education Department is disregarding the concerns of parents and educators and keep three days of standardized testing in ELA and math. NYSUT issued the following statement:

“Despite a fierce outcry against the length of state standardized tests by parents and educators, the State Education Department is punting on the changes needed to move forward. So much for listening. What’s worse than SED’s failure to heed the legitimate concerns of parents and educators, however, is its indefensible rationale for not reducing the number of test days from three to two. With wholesale changes expected to the state’s standards, tests and evaluations — and a moratorium on the use of test results for students and teachers in place through 2019-20 — there is no reason to continue to subject children to three days of standardized tests that mean little. NYSUT strongly encourages the State Education Department to reconsider, and to continue to work with stakeholders to develop age- and developmentally appropriate assessments that are fair and meaningful. Teaching and learning must always take precedence over testing.”

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