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March 16, 2017
For third straight year, TNReady prompts Tennessee to adjust teacher evaluation formula
The State Department of Education is asking for another change to teacher evaluations in response to last year’s test cancellation of TNReady.
Politics of testing
February 9, 2017
From ISTEP to ILEARN: GOP test plan clears first legislative hurdle
A proposal to replace ISTEP won approval from Indiana’s House Education Committee today.
April 21, 2016
Tennessee braces for TNReady testing delays — again — as state blames testing vendor — again
High school testing materials have arrived on time, but materials for grades 3-8 will be late, according to the State Department of Education.
Choosing to refuse
March 16, 2016
Opt-out movement gains foothold in Tennessee as more parents and students refuse state assessment
The opt-out wave is beginning to gain traction in Tennessee, a year after mass numbers of students refused tests in states including New York, Washington, and Colorado.
February 5, 2016
These 22 education bills are still alive halfway through Indiana's 2016 legislative session
The bills switch chambers and could begin hearings as early as next week.
February 3, 2016
Technology concerns surface as Indiana approaches next ISTEP exam
Board members today said they were worried about computer glitches after a few statewide "stress tests."
February 2, 2016
Lawmakers send bill that would kill ISTEP to the Indiana Senate
The measure, which passed 86-11, would set a deadline to end the test in 2017.
January 21, 2016
It’s over: Pence signs bills pausing ISTEP consequences for one year
After nearly two years of debate, Pence and lawmakers bowed to Ritz’s solution to a big test score drop.
January 19, 2016
ISTEP rescore plans reduced after lawmakers consider high costs, expert advice
House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning said a vote is expected on the bill Thursday.
November 11, 2015
State senator: Legislature should pass a bill now to relieve ISTEP sanctions
Sen. Mark Stoops proposed a bill to relieve schools and teachers from possible test score drops — But he wants it passed before lawmakers convene for the 2016 session.
October 28, 2015
Indiana rank continues to rise on the national NAEP test
In a year when many states saw significant drops, Indiana did as good or better than the U.S. average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress compared to 2013.
October 19, 2015
Teacher to legislators: I'd love to stay in the classroom if I could afford it
It’ll be another week before legislators come together to make recommendations on how schools can increase teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
September 29, 2015
Should Indiana just use the SAT as its high school test?
New Hampshire's going to do it, so why can't Indiana just have all high school juniors take the SAT instead of a state exam? Well, the Hoosier state probably could, too.
August 12, 2015
Meaningless? Cause for celebration? Interpretations of newest test scores run the gamut
New York state’s latest test scores are completely meaningless — or the key to understanding whether any students are learning. It all depends who you talk to.
June 8, 2015
Will Common Core return to Indiana through ISTEP?
Senate Bill 566 says the state can use outside test questions as long as they align with Indiana standards.
The Answer Is No
April 24, 2015
Federal education department: No reprieve for opt-outs
The U. S. Department of Education rejected a request from the Colorado Department of Education to hold districts harmless for large numbers of opt outs.
April 23, 2015
As opt-out numbers grow, Arne Duncan says feds may have to step in
At an event on Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the federal government might need to intervene if states don't address the waves of opt outs.
April 23, 2015
ISTEP looks likely to survive after long legislative debate
Sen. Luke Kenley said today he could go along instead with a plan to study future changes to state tests rather than an immediate overhaul.
share your story
April 15, 2015
Tell us: What’s new about state testing in New York City this year?
We’re reaching out to educators, parents, students, and others to understand how the testing landscape in New York City has changed since last year.
an objective measure
April 7, 2015
As new teacher evaluation system looms, Tisch defends need for state tests
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch continues to defend the need for state tests as an objective measure in the new teacher evaluation system.
March 12, 2015
State board members: How can Indiana cut costs for testing?
The state might have to live with a more expensive state test, at least for for 2016, unless the legislature quickly makes good on an idea it is considering to ditch ISTEP altogether and moves up the timeline to do it.
March 9, 2015
Rising Up: Voices from Colorado’s student protest movement
Listen to student activists from across the state discuss the how and why of protests from last fall.
February 24, 2015
Senate defeats civics test bill, grapples with future of ISTEP
A bill proposing all students pass a civics test was defeated in the Senate after receiving support in both the Senate Education and Senate Appropriations committees.
February 20, 2015
Explaining the ISTEP debate: 6 reasons why the test ballooned
The Indiana legislature is moving fast to cut at least three hours from the state ISTEP after two weeks of sharp words over its length. What caused the blow up?
February 19, 2015
Here’s how schools will shorten the ISTEP
The instructions tell schools to give half of the English and math sections in the test's first part, which is made up of primarily essay-style and short answer questions. This change reduces the test by three hours and five minutes for students in all grade levels, according to the education department.
February 13, 2015
Ritz jumps on board with Pence consultants' ideas to shorten ISTEP
After a contentious week of criticizing each other, Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence appear to mostly be on the same…
February 11, 2015
Senators back a bill that could end Indiana's testing woes — by dumping ISTEP
If Republicans in the Indiana Senate get their way, Hoosiers will never have to fight about ISTEP again. That’s because Senate Bill 566, which…
February 9, 2015
Pence signs executive order to shorten ISTEP test
Gov. Mike Pence signed an executive order today aimed at shortening Indiana’s ISTEP test, an action that follows days of heated conversations about how the 2015…
February 5, 2015
Could Indiana junk ISTEP for a national test?
Indiana lawmakers and educators Wednesday praised the idea of replacing ISTEP with a national “off-the-shelf” test in the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill…
January 21, 2015
City teachers testify before U.S. Senate committee on reducing testing
Two New York City teachers were among a panel of expert witnesses called to testify on testing and accountability at a U.S. Senate committee hearing Wednesday aimed to fix No Child Left Behind.
July 2, 2014
New group of high schools likely to receive Regents waivers this month
Administrators and faculty members at some schools recently learned they are likely to receive waivers from the state that allow them to drop the math, science, and social studies Regents tests starting next year and evaluate students using in-depth projects instead.
December 12, 2013
NY Senate report calls for testing ban and data-collection delay
A combination of education policy revisions and new state laws would ban early grade testing, delay student data collection and help school districts change their evaluation plans to eliminate testing, according to recommendations released in a report this afternoon by Republican State Sen. John Flanagan. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who chairs the State Senate's education committee, held five hearings this fall to discuss some of the sweeping policies taking shape in classrooms around the state, such as teacher evaluations and new learning standards. The recommendations are a culmination of feedback from the hearings, one of which took place in New York City. The report takes some policy advice from the New York City and state teachers unions, two political heavyweights that regularly spar with Republican senators like Flanagan come election season. It also calls for legislation to require the state officials to accelerate their review of local evaluation plans to see where an abundance of student testing can be reduced, something that district officials have taken upon themselves to fix this year.
December 10, 2013
As testing anxiety peaks, student media campaign urges calm
From left: Columbia University volunteer Andrew Zola; Nichole Urena; Hudson High government teacher Elizabeth Schurman; principal Nancy Amling; Christina Auricchio; Bruce Dixey. Like students across the city, those at the Hudson High School of Learning Technologies can rattle off many reasons to loathe the state Regents exams. Teens at the Chelsea school have had to slog through Saturday test-prep classes, retake tough tests several times, appeal low scores and — in at least one student’s case — retake two of the all-important exit exams this summer on his 17th birthday. But unlike most students, those in Hudson’s 12th-grade government class decided to turn their Regents animus into action by launching an outreach campaign aimed at lowering the temperature around testing.
December 9, 2013
City lawmakers to pass “historic” bill calling for fewer tests
The City Council is expected to vote in favor of a symbolic resolution calling for changes to the way student learning is measured on teacher evaluations and other school accountability systems. The changes the lawmakers seek are specifically to get rid of standardized tests, which they say have been pervasive since the passage of federal No Child Left Behind law in 2001 and had deleterious effects. The tests cause unnecessary stress, costs too much money, stifles classroom creativity and encourages schools to narrow curriculum to focus on test preparation, the resolution contends. The resolution calls specifically for changes to come at the state level, which would likely mean big amendments to the teacher evaluation law. Local districts have found their own ways to mitigate the effects of testing mandates, as GothamSchools reported last week. Dozens of districts have changed their teacher evaluation plans so that they have to administer and grade fewer standardized tests, according to the state.
the big picture
October 17, 2013
Concerns about testing accompany Common Core standards
Students would take their annual state tests on computers if New York adopts tests produced by the multistate consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. In New York starting this school year, classrooms will transform into havens of critical thinking and deeper learning — the opposite of the teach-to-the-test culture so reviled by many teachers for more than a decade. Or so promise proponents of the new set of standards known as the Common Core that the state’s schools are adopting in full for the first time this fall. But some educators are worried the drill-and-kill culture will survive the shift to tougher standards as New York pushes forward with its plans to tie teachers evaluations to their students’ test scores. That shift started last year across the state and continues in New York City this year. “If I’m a new untenured teacher, I could be very focused on trying to make sure those kids do well on the test,” said David Getz, principal of East Side Middle School, one of the highest-performing middle schools in New York City.
September 13, 2013
After two companies botch test scoring, city to recoup money
The city canceled a contract with one testing vendor and won't get charged by another after the companies bungled exam scoring in separate incidents earlier this year, the education department announced today. Officials announced this afternoon that they are canceling a $9.7 million contract after the vendor, CTB/McGraw-Hill, botched a new electronic grading process for the city's Regents exams, causing confusion for tens of thousands of students who needed scores to graduate or move onto the next grade. The city will also recoup $2.1 million from Pearson for major errors during its administration of a gifted exam. The news comes less than three months after officials sought to downplay the issues, which included a series of technical glitches that resulted from logistical problems, faulty software and low school bandwidth. Spokeswoman Erin Hughes said the department was still negotiating how much money it would recoup from the contract, which was in its second year of a three-year deal. As a result of the cancellation, she said, the city planned to move back to paper-and-pencil scoring in 2014.
June 13, 2013
UFT, allies propose ways to reduce city's emphasis on testing
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and NYGPS spokeswoman Zakiyah Ansari proposed new testing and accountability measures. A common criticism during campaign season has been that standardized testing plays too large a role in city schools. Today, some who have made the claim most loudly backed up their rhetoric with policy proposals. In a press conference on the steps of City Hall, the teachers union and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a coalition that formed to oppose the Bloomberg administration's school policies, outlined steps that the next mayor should take to end high-stakes testing and improve the Department of Education's school accountability system.
the hot seat
June 4, 2013
Student reporters' questions for John King driven by experience
Student reporters video-conferenced with State Education Commissioner John King this morning. Reporters peppered State Education Commissioner John King with questions about all of the expected topics at a press conference this morning: teacher evaluations, college readiness, and Regents exams. But in a twist, the reporters were students whose questions were rooted in their own experience, and who pushed King to consider how his policies play out in their schools.
April 22, 2013
Pearson's NYC misstep draws state education officials' concern
ALBANY — State education officials expressed doubt today about whether the testing firm Pearson, which has several contracts in New York, can handle its expanding workload. "Obviously, the public is starting to question, I think, very aggressively with us whether or not they're able to manage all of the things they've taken on," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said of Pearson, whose subsidiary testing company NCS Pearson, Inc. has a five-year, $32 million contract to create tests for the state. Tisch, who has criticized the testing company before, was responding to Pearson's latest misstep in test administration. On Friday, the New York City Department of Education said nearly 5,000 students were told they were ineligible for the city's Gifted & Talented programs when they actually should have made the cut. Three separate errors took place during test grading, which Pearson oversaw, department and company officials both said.
April 16, 2013
Difficulty of new state tests apparent on first day, teachers say
As the first day of this year's state testing period came to a close this afternoon, teachers from across the city took to Twitter to share their takes on whether the exam is shaping up to be as tough as officials have warned. State education officials caution that discussing the contents of the tests, the first to be tied to the new Common Core standards, could be grounds for termination for teachers. But teachers offered a thorough review without getting into specifics. Many said students struggled to complete the reading test in the allotted time. Others, in multiple grades, said some questions seemed to have multiple correct answers. Valerie Leak tweeted, "7th[-grade] texts were manageable but Qs were v difficult. kids left guessing w 5 min left. Close reading required w not enough time." "Close reading" is a skill that the Common Core emphasizes, and students across the city have been practicing with it all year. But Binh Thai, an eighth-grade English teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School on the Lower East Side, told GothamSchools that the technique and others that the Common Core calls for worked against some students today.
April 11, 2013
State's erasure analysis pilot included all tests taken last year
An effort to root out possible cheating that the State Education Department billed as stopgap actually included every single test that elementary and middle school students in New York took last year. But the state is not yet saying how many red flags turned up when three million students' answer sheets were scrutinized using a test security procedure known as "erasure analysis." For the last two years, under increasing pressure to show that the state's test scores are meaningful, state education officials have asked the legislature for funding to carry out erasure analysis on students' answer sheets. The process detects how often answers have been switched from wrong to right, a key barometer of cheating. Erasure analysis helped uncover cheating in other districts, including Atlanta, where 35 educators were recently indicted for their roles in a sweeping cheating scandal. But in both years, legislators turned down the education officials' requests. Last year, after legislators rejected a $1 million request to perform erasure analysis on 10 percent of tests, the officials said they would free up funds from their budget for limited testing.
March 7, 2013
Eschewing Pearson, state goes back to McGraw-Hill for GED
Nearly a year after Pearson, the testing company, took a public beating for mistakes on the exams it produced for New York State, state education officials are piling on. Today, the State Education Department announced that the state will forgo a new high school equivalency exam made by Pearson in favor of its own exam, which the publishing company McGraw-Hill will produce. The state announced that it would consider other vendors to create an equivalency test after Pearson partnered with the non-profit group that had previously produced the GED, which people who have not graduated from high school can take to show they are prepared for college, work, or the military. Cost was a major concern: Pearson's test will cost $120 to start, twice what the current exam costs. "While the GED was run by a not-for-profit, the system worked fairly well. But a Pearson GED monopoly would put our students at the mercy of Pearson’s pricing," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement today. "We can’t let price deny anyone the opportunity for success. That’s why, rather than pay Pearson twice the current cost or limit the number of students who can take the exam, the Regents approved a competitive process to develop a new assessment."
February 7, 2013
A possible key to curing students' test anxiety? More stress
According to this weekend's lead New York Times Magazine story, teachers would probably be doing students a favor by pitting them against each other more often. The story, "Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?", surveys neuroscience research to try to figure out why top students sometimes freeze up on high-stakes exams. One answer, researchers say, is that people who usually have an optimal level of a neurotransmitter called dopamine go into overload in stressful settings, while others only reach the optimal level in those settings. Simply put, one researcher told the Times, "The people who perform best in normal conditions may not be the same people who perform best under stress." It's a lesson educators know through experience, confirmed through cutting-edge neuroscience. Critics of high-stakes tests tend to argue that when schools prepare students for tests by giving practice exams and emphasizing the exams’ importance, they stress students out even more. But researchers say there's value in test prep:
September 17, 2012
NY Mag looks at Stuyvesant culture in light of cheating scandal
This week's issue of New York Magazine has an in-depth profile of Nayeem Ahsan, the 16-year-old Stuyvesant High School student who helmed the school's recent cheating scandal. Last June, school officials caught Ahsan using his cell phone to help dozens of students cheat on Regents exams, which students must take before graduating. Since then, the city has launched an investigation and threatened many of the students involved with lengthy suspensions. And the school's principal has retired, to be replaced by a former network leader who is also a Stuyvesant parent. In the wake of these events, many GothamSchools readers told us that cheating is more widespread than officials would admit, and expressed suspicions of Principal Jie Zhang's suggestion that the cheating ring was an isolated incident. “I have not been made aware … or have a reason to believe that there is ongoing cheating there," Zhang told reporters in a phone call shortly after being appointed. The magazine piece also suggests otherwise. In addition to detailing Ahsan's methods, which included sharing homework answers, procuring exams given by teachers in previous years, and texting students photos of entire exam booklets during last spring's Regents exams, it describes a culture that encouraged cheating among many. Ahsan said Stuyvesant's educational environment put a premium on high-performance and competition. The structure of his classes often presented opportunities to game the system:
July 13, 2012
State test score data set to be released early next week
Students had to wait until August to hear how they did on last year's state tests after the release date got postponed by nearly two weeks. The wait won't be nearly as long this year. A spokesman for the New York State Education Department confirmed this morning that the test score announcement is scheduled to be made on Tuesday, July 17, barring there are no technical difficulties like the ones that delayed last year's release. The release is also earlier in the summer because students took the grades 3 through 8 tests two weeks earlier than normal (and immediately after students returned from spring break). The advanced timing was planned in order to put new teacher evaluation requirements in place. Twenty percent of a teacher's rating on the evaluations will be based on scores from the state tests. The annual announcement is a highly-anticipated event that education officials typically use to mark their progress. Prior to 2010, it had become easy to predict that the event would be an occasion for education officials to point to gains.
June 19, 2012
Latest test errors are on city-produced foreign language exams
For some students, final exams administered on Monday posed an extra challenge. Months after a spate of errors on the state's elementary and middle school exams caused parents and educators to charge that test-makers are held to lower standards than its teachers or students, more mistakes have come to light. This time the errors are on high school foreign language exams developed by the city Department of Education. This year, local districts were required for the first time to create the foreign language exams that students can take to fulfill graduation requirements. The state had produced Regents exams in several languages in the past but eliminated them in a cost-cutting move last year. Department of Education officials said the new requirement would be easy to meet because the city already created tests for less commonly studied languages such as Hebrew and Chinese. But when students sat down to take French and Spanish exams on Monday, errors quickly became apparent. Students who took the French exam were asked a multiple-choice question with more than one correct answer. In one part of the Spanish exam, students were asked to choose two out of three questions to answer, but only given two options. And a printing error meant that the rubric students were supposed to use when structuring their essay on the Spanish language exam was missing.
June 7, 2012
Brandishing pineapples, parents and students target Pearson
Parents and children rally against the field testing.Weeks of awareness-raising by groups alarmed by an extra round of state tests this year culminated in a mass protest against the test-maker's Midtown headquarters today. The parents and children who attended the rally came from some of the 61 elementary and middle schools where anti-testing activists said families were boycotting "field tests" from Pearson, which began on Tuesday. Over 400 parents and children protested Pearson's field tests, which are intended to help design future tests.The company has a $32 million state contract to produce tests. Parents at the protest — many from the Upper West Side, Brownstone Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan — said they are fed up with the number of tests that their children have to take. Parent organizations such as Change the Stakes, Time Out From Testing, and Parent Voices New York helped build support against the field tests. “We organized classroom by classroom, school by school,” said Michael Ravitch, a parent from P.S. 321 in Brooklyn. “Many of these parents haven’t been politically involved before but everyone shares this feeling and needed an outlet to express their disgust for these useless and meaningless tests that are eating up the resources of these schools and wasting our children’s time." "I thought maybe there'd be 50 people here," said Ravitch, who is the son of vocal education activist, Diane Ravitch. "I hope that this is just the beginning."
June 5, 2012
Only division during ed officials' pitch is teacher ratings' release
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (left) joined State Education Commissioner John King (center) and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a Philanthropy New York panel. Speaking to philanthropists and foundation leaders on Monday, the city, state, and national schools chiefs presented a united front — except when it came to the sticky issue of whether to release teachers' ratings to the public. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, State Education Commissioner John King, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered up tips on financing school reform at Philanthropy New York's 33rd annual meeting. The meeting drew representatives from major education organizations used to making and receiving philanthropic gifts, including the Harlem Children's Zone and The After-School Corporation. It also attracted education policy neophytes from large private foundations: Many in the audience didn't know how many of New York State's 250,000 ninth graders typically make it to 12th grade without dropping out (Duncan furnished the answer: 188,000). The trio of education policy heavyweights together urged attendees to think about how their contributions could support their priorities, such as implementing new learning standards, known as the Common Core, and overhauling the country's lowest-performing schools. Walcott told the audience that private donations have fueled some of the city's most innovative reform efforts, including the Common Core Library and the technology-infused iZone. “I’m actually not coming here to ask you to give a lot more, although that would be great too, but to be really smarter in what you’re giving,” Duncan said. But they were divided when moderator Beth Fertig, WNYC's education report, asked whether they thought districts and states should make teacher evaluations available to the public, as New York City did in February in response to requests from several news organizations. It's a question that state lawmakers could tackle this month.
May 22, 2012
With field tests approaching, parents are reprising protests
A group of parents and teachers are once again preparing to opt their children out of state tests, this time when their schools will administer “field” exams in over a thousand elementary and middle schools across the city next month. Field testing allows test makers to gauge the value of future test questions. Pearson, the company that currently makes New York's state tests, is preparing a slew of new questions that are aligned with new learning standards known as the Common Core. This spring's field tests focus on science, math, or reading, depending on the grade level. Students in selected schools already took the science test in mid-May, which was for grades 4 and 8. The math and reading tests are scheduled for the first week of June. The parents and teachers, who are part of the Change the Stakes coalition, are calling on parents to protest the testing, which will be administered on behalf of Pearson Education, the test publisher that famously drew criticism for the “pineapple” test questions on the state’s eighth-grade English exam in April. “This is just research for the company,” said Tony Kelso, whose third-grader is supposed to take the reading field test at Amistad Dual Language School in Inwood. Kelso added that he doubted Pearson would get useful information from the tests. “My understanding is that the tests aren’t even reliable. The students know they won’t count so they don’t take them seriously,” he said.
May 9, 2012
Find your school's 2012 TCAP scores
The percentage of Colorado third-graders reading at grade level improved slightly this year, according to results released today by state officials. Across the state, 74 percent of of third-graders achieved at proficient or advanced levels on exams given in February this year, up from 73 percent last year.
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