ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Some standardized tests in New York public schools will be eliminated, state Education Commissioner John King has told superintendents, citing “a variety of pressures” that may have hurt instruction. The move comes after years of criticism from teachers and parents.
The first target will be an eighth-grade math test, which comes at the same time as a federally required standardized test in math, King states in a letter sent Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press.
The Board of Regents is considering eliminating this test and others where possible in other grades, King said. Some tests, however, are required by the federal government. Grants will be provided to help school districts reduce local standardized tests, the letter states.
“While the number and frequency of state assessments has remained relatively constant over the last decade (and is largely dictated by requirements in federal law), the Board of Regents, the State Education Department (SED), and I recognize that a variety of pressures at the state and local level may have resulted in more testing than is needed and in rote test preparation that crowds out quality instruction,” King states in the letter.
King said the Board of Regents discussed the changes in a meeting this week.
“Testing is an important part of the instructional cycle and necessary to monitor student academic progress and contribute to decisions at the classroom, school, district, and state levels,” King told superintendents. “However, the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making. Test results should be used only as one of multiple measures of progress, and tests should reflect our instructional priorities.”
The change follows a decade of criticism by teachers, their unions and groups of parents aimed at the Board of Regents as it raised academic and teaching standards. Most recently, a group of parents and teachers have asked for King’s resignation as he implements the national Common Core standards that further raise standards for students which effects teaching and teachers’ job evaluations.
Education advocates for years have been critical of the focus on standardized tests.
“We’re spending too much time on testing and too much time with test prep,” Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.
Easton said there’s an obsession with testing.
“Middle school students spending more time taking tests than it is required to take the bar exam to become a lawyer,” he told Smith.
Easton said he is skeptical about the changes proposed by King.
“It’s good rhetoric but not enough action yet,” Easton said.
On Friday, students told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff that they have taken a lot of tests throughout their academic careers.
“I feel like there is a new test every year. And they are always adding tests,” eighth grader Sommer Maddox said.
“A lot of kids are struggling, and these tests … I don’t think they are necessary,” one parent said.
Educators called the move a step in the right direction.
“Maybe the commissioner is beginning to listen to educators and parents about the number of assessments kids have taken,” Middle County School District Superintendent Dr. Roberta Gerold said.
Teachers said that the extra tests actually detract from learning.
“We are testing, but it’s not helping us to help the kids learn,” Teacher’s Association of Middle County School District President Nadia Resnikoff explained.
The issue has become so heated that some town hall meetings on Common Core were called off after shouting matches erupted.
On Thursday in Albany, King explained the state’s effort. It was a revamped format after a similar effort in Poughkeepsie devolved into conflict. Parents and teachers had complained King hasn’t listened to their concerns, although King has the support of the Board of Regents and Gov. Andrew Cuomo support’s King’s reforms.
King seeks support from teachers and superintendents as well as their input in considering which tests to eliminate, according to the letter confirmed by the state Education Department on Friday.
Any changes will have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
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