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New York: Commissioner Elia’s Misleading Description of State Tests

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New York State Commissioner of Educatuon MaryEllen Elia defended the state tests in a letter to the editor of an upstate newspaper.

What was interesting was what she did not say.

She wrote:

Your recent editorial “Benefits of Regents testing still unclear” (“Another View,” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Aug. 28) is riddled with inaccurate information about New York’s student testing requirements. For the benefit of your readers, I am writing to set the record straight.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education approved New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. It reflects more than a year of collaboration with a comprehensive group of stakeholders throughout the state. Approval of our plan by USDE ensures that New York will continue to receive about $1.6 billion annually in federal funding to support elementary and secondary education in New York’s schools. Had we not received federal approval, that money would have been left on the table, to the great detriment of our students and teachers.

Over the past three years, I have communicated frequently with the USDE about test participation rates and the importance of not penalizing schools, students or anyone else when a district’s participation rate falls below the federally required level.

The editorial states that in June the Board of Regents adopted regulations to implement the state’s ESSA plan — leading your readers to believe, erroneously, that these regulations are now final. In fact, the implementing regulations are temporary. We continue to make changes to the regulations based on the many public comments received.

We anticipate the Board of Regents will discuss these comments and proposed modifications to the draft regulations at its September meeting. The revised regulations will again go out for comment before they are permanently adopted. We hope your readers will participate in this ongoing public comment process.

Your editorial also is misleading in its claim that releasing state test results in September “makes the testing data nearly useless for school districts.” Here are the facts. In early June, schools and school districts were able to access instructional reports for the 2018 state assessments. At the same time, the department released about 75 percent of the test questions that contribute to student scores. The instructional reports, together with the released test questions, are used by schools and districts for summer curriculum-writing and professional development activities. Additionally, while statewide test results are not yet publicly available, we have already provided districts with their students’ score information. Districts can — and should — use this information to help inform instructional decisions for the upcoming school year.

The state Education Department’s stance remains unchanged: There should be no financial penalties for schools with high opt out rates. We continue to review the public comments on this and other proposed regulations, and those comments will be carefully considered as we finalize the state’s ESSA regulations.

Ultimately, it is for parents to decide whether their child should participate in the state assessments. In making that decision, though, they should have accurate information. I hope this letter gives them a better understanding of the facts.

MaryEllen Elia
Albany
The writer is state commissioner of education.

I checked with teachers, and this is what they said.

The test scores are released long after the student has left his or her teacher and moved to a different teacher.

Most of the questions are released, but the teacher never learns which questions individual students got right or wrong.

The tests have NO DIAGNOSTIC VALUE.

The tests have NO INSTRUCTIONAL VALUE.

Apparently, it means a lot to Commissioner Elia to compare the scores of different districts, but that comparison is of no value to teachers, principals, or parents.

One middle school teacher said this to me:

“…the whole exercise is meaningless at the classroom level. Admins might look at the data when it comes to certain skills/content areas, but without looking at the questions/answers, it is not helpful for us in the trenches.”

Another teacher told me:

“…we do not get student-specific results for each question, we are supposed to look at statewide results and then somehow extrapolate that back to our classrooms, the following year, with different kids. So this is a BLUNT tool at best and students get no individual diagnostic benefit.”

The state tests are pointless and meaningless. They have no diagnostic value whatever for individual students.

Every parent in New York should understand that their children are subjected to hours of testing for no reason, other than to allow the Commissioner to compare districts. Their children receive no benefit from the testing. No teacher learns anything about their students, other than their scores.

The state tests are pointless and meaningless. They have no diagnostic value for students—or teachers.

OPT OUT.

OPT OUT.

OPT OUT.

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