A major makeover of the state’s English and math tests is not in the cards, top state education officials said Tuesday.
New York will not apply for a federal pilot program that would have allowed the state to experiment with different kinds of math and English tests for grades 3-8, officials announced Tuesday. Last May, the state indicated it would apply.
The decision — which was based on the state’s conclusion that developing new tests would be too expensive — largely shuts the door on major testing changes, such as having students complete projects or submit examples of their work.
Creating “innovative assessments” for the math and English tests is a “very, very, large project,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “If we did it in some other areas, I think that we would have a lot more success with less costs,” she said, referring to subjects like science and social studies, as well as the exams that high school students must pass in order to graduate.
The move is likely to rankle parents who have led the charge to boycott state exams in New York, which has been rocked by one of the largest opt-out movements in the country. Though the state has already made some changes to the tests, including shortening them and giving students unlimited time to complete the material, these parents have called for more. Last year, nearly one in five families chose to have their children sit out of the tests.
Lisa Rudley, a founding member of New York State Allies for Public Education, a group that helped organize the opt-out movement, said she hadn’t expected major changes to come from the pilot program. But she’s disappointed that the state isn’t looking separately to take a new approach to its annual tests.
“I am frustrated as someone who opts their children out,” Rudley said. “If we have to do an assessment, it should be a value for the student and teachers to drive instruction.”
State officials say that more changes are not feasible right now. The state is already in the process of shortening the tests from three days to two and reworking test questions to match the state’s newly revamped learning standards.
“The fact that there is no additional federal funding available to implement the pilot means the Department must focus its resources on more immediate assessment priorities,” said education department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis. “We will continue to look for opportunities in the future should resources allow.”
Elia said the state is interested in experimenting with new tests in science, social studies, and for graduating students. State officials gave few additional details, but said the science tests should be “hands-on” and mentioned creating a “capstone” project for graduating students.
“Those are all things that are still on the page for a different approach for assessment,” Elia said.