The state’s efforts to cut testing days and give students unlimited assessment time was meant to appease testing critics, but now some parents and teachers are worried there’s a catch: young students spending multiple hours at a time taking the tests.
The state’s English tests, which were supposed to take on average 60 to 90 minutes to complete, took some students three to six hours to finish, according to teachers who spoke to Chalkbeat and numerous reports on social media.
“It’s very emotionally taxing on the kids,” said Ruben Brosbe, who teaches fifth grade at P.S. 194. “The level of stress that they go through, it’s hard to watch as an adult that cares about them.” Brosbe said about a quarter of his class was still working at the end of the day — about six hours after testing began.
One middle school teacher said that the majority of her students took at least three hours and that some took until the end of the day to finish. “It becomes an endurance test, not a reading and writing test,” said Christine Sugrue, who teaches sixth grade.
The lengthy testing sessions might have been brought on, in part, by efforts made to ease pressure on students. In New York, students have unlimited time to finish the tests, an option meant to reduce stress that may instead contribute to lengthier assessments. The state also switched this year from three days of testing in math and English to two days in each subject and cut the number of questions — but critics still question whether they tried to cram too much testing into a shorter time frame.
New York City’s new chancellor Richard Carranza, who called opting out of tests an “extreme reaction” but also credited the “conversation” in New York for changing assessments for the better, said he is still looking into what happened Thursday.
“I’ve heard some reports as well,” Carranza said to Chalkbeat on Friday. “I’m diving into that.”
State officials said they will continue working to improve the tests and pointed out that there were fewer questions this year.
“As we have over the past several years, we will consider all feedback from parents, teachers and others on this year’s exams and use it to improve next year’s tests,” said Emily DeSantis, the state’s education department spokeswoman. “This year, both the ELA and Mathematics testing sessions are reduced to only two days each, resulting in substantially fewer questions than in recent years.”
For instance, compared to last year, state officials said there were three fewer reading passages, seven fewer multiple choice questions and one fewer of each extended and short response questions. They also noted that schools should be providing appropriate breaks for students.
The complaints about long days of testing are the latest hurdle the state faces as it tries to restore faith in the embattled assessments. Nearly one in five families have boycotted the tests for the past three years, arguing in part that they are not appropriate for young students. Though the state has tried to quell concerns, this year they have already fended off computer glitches and privacy issues.
Separately, state officials sent a statement on Friday that called the computer problems an “unacceptable failure” by Quester and that they would continue to review their contract with the state’s testing vendor to determine “appropriate next steps.”
Leaders in the opt-out movement have already said that despite the state’s changes, they still are not satisfied and plan to keep boycotting the assessments. But a group that supports the tests sent out a celebratory statement on Friday claiming that early reports indicate testing participation has increased this year.
“While the results are still preliminary and only represent paper test participation, the conclusion is clear: more parents and students are saying Yes to the Test – a major win for families and schools across the state,” read the statement from High Achievement New York.