Superintendent on standardized testing this year, ‘less stress, less emphasis on taking the test’


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Standardized testing began this week for students in grades 3-8. Schools throughout the state are required by the U.S. Dept. of Education to administer the exams, despite calls from the New York State Education Department to have them waived due to the pandemic.

The tests are shorter: students only have to take Section I of multiple choice, for English and Math. Another big change according to Gananda Superintendent Shawn Van Scoy: there will be less stress for everyone, and less emphasis on actually taking the test.

The reason? He says the high stakes for high performance and participation have been removed by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We are not being required to meet high percentages of participation, we are not being told we have to have those participation percentages met,” said Van Scoy. He says there also won’t be any measures to follow up with parents if a student doesn’t show up for an exam or refuses to take them. There also weren’t weeks of preparation leading up to the exams.

Van Scoy says we’ve also been in a pandemic for over a year now. That fact alone could contribute to more parents opting their students out than years before.

For context, students have been entitled to opt-out of exams for a few years now, by either refusing or simply not showing up. But with the pandemic, Van Scoy says there could be even more of those refusals.

Van Scoy says he’s glad the tests weren’t waived – it’s important to get a sense of where students are at. And other forms of assessing performance are now taking a rise locally, and each district is embracing that responsibility on their own. Districts like Gananda and Greece are using an online system called i-Ready to measure growth.

Meagan Harris, special education teacher with the Rochester City School District, is frustrated the tests are happening this year. She says teachers need to meet students where they’re at for measuring performance, and suggests even doing away with standardized testing completely.

“When you look at a pool of people,  you need a very large pool to get a better understanding of results, so  now the pool is extremely restricted,” she said. “Why not take the opportunity to reimagine how education could look, and how we can support students where they are. Even before the pandemic not all students were at the same point.”

The New York State United Teachers released a statement when the news came out the tests would not be waived:

“…In a year that has been anything but standard, forcing states to administer standardized exams is just plain poor federal policy,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “The state is making the most of a bad situation by scaling back this year’s testing requirements and limiting stress on students who already have gone through so much. Commissioner Rosa, Chancellor Young and the Board of Regents are doing what’s necessary to put students’ needs first in a frustratingly backward situation…”

The New York State Education Department released a statement saying the following:

     The Department has determined that it will not be possible to administer any of this year’s State assessments remotely and assessments will be “school-based” and “in-person.” However, being mindful of the variability in the manner that instruction is being provided to students across the State in response to COVID-19, NYSED is providing schools much more flexibility than had been necessary in past years in the local in-school scheduling of the Spring 2021 operational tests.

“For the Spring 2021 administration, schools will be required to administer only Session 1 of the ELA and Mathematics Tests to students. Only student scores on the Session 1 test questions will contribute to students’ total scores for the tests. Session 2 will be made available to schools strictly for their optional administration to students and, if administered, student scores for Session 2 test questions will be used for local student assessment purposes only.

In addition, the Spring 2021 Session 1 tests have been reduced in length by the removal of the embedded multiple-choice field test questions. Schools that selected computer-based testing and elect to administer the optional Session 2 will be able to do so within the established testing and scoring windows.”

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