As Criticism Grows, New York To Drop Some Standardized Tests

In New York, criticism is growing against State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and the New York State Education Department over new standardized tests, and both teacher and parent groups are have expressed disapproval with the state’s plan to adopt Common Core Standards.

In response to growing concerns over the usefulness of tests and the resources they require, the state education department has decided to eliminate some standardized tests. Under the revised plans, the department would eliminate a math test for some eighth graders, students struggling in English would be given exams in their native languages, and students with disabilities would take tests matched to their level of instruction, not their age, writes Javier C. Hernández writes in The New York Times.

In a letter to superintendents and principals on October 24th, Dr. King said that there was “more testing than is needed” in some districts and some schools were too focused on rote memorization in preparing for exams. “The amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making,”

The state wants to eliminate some tests administered by local school districts. As part of the plan, districts would be offered grants to study the usefulness of exams and to eliminate redundancies.

The state also would seek to do away with a class of exams known as field tests, which are administered for the purpose of weeding out bad questions from future tests. Elected officials and parents have criticized field tests in recent years, calling them unnecessary exercises that benefit testing companies and exhaust students.

Some families in New York City have protested field tests by boycotting the state exams altogether. The state plans to embed more field test questions into math and reading exams in place of stand-alone field tests, which could cost $12 million a year.

The new changes will be pursued in the next few months by the education department. In January, the department will ask the federal government to allow English-language learners to take language arts exams in their native language. Currently, students who have been in the United States for at least a year are required to take those exams in English.

In addition, the state will seek permission for some 57,000 eighth-graders studying algebra to take a Regents exam in lieu of a traditional math test. Those students are currently required to take both.

Leaders of teachers’ unions and parents have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the state’s efforts. “All this emphasis is being put on testing, instead of developing an enriched curriculum that produces real learning for children,” said Jane Hirschmann, co-chairwoman of Time Out From Testing, a statewide coalition. “This is not going to satisfy any of us.”

The New York Education Department recently announced that it will host 16 forums across the state on the newly implemented Common Core Standards. These state-sponsored meetings will take the place of four New York State Parent Teacher Association meetings abruptly cancelled by King after criticism of his policies.