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Changes to grades 3-8 testing

| March 28, 2016

Dear Parents:

As you are most likely aware, this is the fourth year that New York students in grades 3-8 will be taking assessments aligned to the state’s new learning standards.

The spring 2016 testing schedule for students in grades 3-8 is as follows:

  • April 5-7: New York State grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) exams
  • April 13-15: New York State grades 3-8 mathematics exams

In recent weeks, the New York State Education Department announced some adjustments to the tests in response to concerns raised by parents and educators after last year’s state exams.

Some of the changes are to the tests themselves and will impact the testing experience for students. There will be fewer questions on both the ELA and mathematics tests and students will be given as much time as they need to complete them.

Significant changes have been made in regard to test development process, making the development of the 3—8 tests more similar to the process used for the development of Regents exams.  First, more teachers were involved in the development and review of the 3-8 tests than ever before.   All of the items on this year’s tests in both ELA and mathematics were selected by committees comprised of New York State teachers.  While it is true that the bank of questions was originally created by Pearson two years ago, the Commissioner tells us it is also true that those items have gone through several rounds of review by New York State teachers and only items that were approved and selected by teachers appear on the final versions of this year’s 3-8 tests. 

In addition, the state has made significant changes regarding the use of test scores.  The state has discontinued the practice of using the grades 3-8 ELA/math test scores for teacher/principal accountability purposes through at least 2019.  Moreover, school districts may not include the results of the grades 3-8 ELA and math tests on students’ official transcripts or permanent records. Click here for more information on the announced changes to the state exams.

As this year’s assessments approach, please keep in mind that while no single test provides a complete picture of your child’s abilities, when we combine standardized test information with teacher feedback and classroom assessments and grades, we can get a fuller picture of your child’s academic progress, as well as his or her individual strengths and areas in need of support. Combined with the fact that the tests will have no academic consequences for students (as they cannot affect grade advancement) or teachers (the test results will not be used for evaluation purposes), we believe that the high stakes nature of the exams is lessened. Now, we can finally use the tests as the diagnostic exercises they were originally intended to be, putting a spotlight on the analysis of the test data to focus instructional practices and resources to better support all students.

As always, we will encourage our students to do their very best. Although we certainly understand that some students may find testing stressful, we assure you that we will do everything possible to create the most appropriate testing environment for all children. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

D. Joseph Corr
Superintendent of Schools

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