While we recognize that by law, New York State must offer these tests to all students, we object to NYSED’s attempt to persuade parents to take these tests rather than simply relaying factual information and allowing parents to make informed decisions on behalf of their child(ren). As a result of the Commissioner’s “toolkit,” administrators around the state have disseminated misinformation to families, eroding parental rights and creates further mistrust of the NYS Education Department.
The orange frames below contain excerpts from the toolkit. Beneath each, we explain why that particular excerpt is problematic. At the end of this document we’ve pasted in a suggested Q & A designed to communicate SED policies about test refusal in a straightforward and fact-based manner.
This toolkit bullet point puts a positive spin (“measuring what students know, not how quickly they finish”) on this policy, but elides the fact that “testing within the confines of the school day” could make it perfectly within bounds for students as young as 9 years old to sit for up to 6 hours of testing per day for 6 days of testing.
A more practical fix would be to create shorter, more developmentally appropriate assessments that students can complete in a reasonable time frame.
Using NYSED’s online test archive (for the 2010 test) and its own report of question quantity (the only way to know 2015 and 2016 numbers since those tests are not publicly released in their entirety on the archive), one can calculate how many test items a student in 2016 was required to answer compared to the number of questions a student in the same grade would have answered in 2010. A 5th grader taking the test in 2016 had to contend with 117 questions (combined math and ELA), whereas in 2010 a 5th grader would have answered 61 questions. That’s 56 more questions in 2016, or an increase of 92% from 2010. The chart and graphic below detail the magnitude of the increase in every grade. The 2017 NYS tests will have the same number of questions as the 2016 tests and so show a similar increase over the 2010 tests.
The state has made no announcement that it intends to monitor time spent on testing for 2017 either, meaning that there is no way to determine if it is operating within the bounds of the law capping testing time. Moreover, it is difficult to see how the state can make valid comparisons among students this year and between this year’s and last year’s tests if the timing is not consistent.
RECOMMENDED FAQS FOR TEST REFUSAL INFORMATION
There are absolutely no consequences for students who refuse the assessments. NYS law states that “NYS assessments cannot be used as a sole or major determining factor for placement decisions.” Students who refuse will be coded as “not tested” and will not receive a score.
2. Are there any refusal procedures mandated by SED?
Most districts request a note from parents, but SED has no mandated procedures for refusal. It is recommended that districts inform parents of their rights without any intimidation.
3. Will districts lose money if they do not test 95% of the students in the school?
No, there are no state OR federal financial penalties for participation rates.
4. Does SED have any mandated protocols during test administration for students who refuse?
No. SED has no mandated protocols. It is recommended that districts allow refusal students to read or participate in other school directed activities in a separate location.
5. Will districts with over 5% opt out rates be put on a focus district list?
New ESSA regulations have eliminated all federal AYP accountability regulations, including focus and priority school designation. NY has not completed its final accountability regulations to comply with ESSA, therefore it is unknown at this time what designation, if any, NY will have in upcoming years.
6. Does SED require an alternate test be given to refusal students?
No. It is not recommended that refusal students be administered alternate assessments.
7. Are the NYS grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments still being used for, or affecting, teacher and principal evaluations?
During the moratorium period, the NYS grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, and Regents Exams, WILL continue to be used to calculate a State-provided student growth score to arrive at the “original” composite score and “original” HEDI rating. These “original” scores and ratings can be used for advisory purposes only, will continue to be provided to teachers and principals, and will become a permanent part of a teacher’s or principal’s employment record. The law is silent as to whether and to what extent these “original” scores and HEDI ratings can be used after the moratorium period ends. In addition, the original score and HEDI rating will be used for purposes of public reporting of aggregate data, individual employment records, and disclosure to parents.