Early in April, 2018, the New York state’s math and English tests started. These tests were for grade 3 to 8 and what was notable is that they were quite different from other tests in previous years. There were many concerns about how long the tests had become and this year, there was an intervention. The state decided to cut the English and math tests to two days each. This means that for each subject, one day of testing was dropped this year. Another notable difference is that a total of 600 New York schools will employ computers to test students. This is an overwhelming increase considering that only 184 schools in New York participated last year.
According to state officials, testing aided by computers will save a lot of time. This is because it will provide results faster to educators, simplifying the processes. However, transitioning to computer-based testing has not been a walk in the park for the state; and neither has it been easy nationally. You will remember that last year, there was a breach in security and some student data was compromised. Concerns about technology and capacity in various schools are therefore rife. Whether students take exams manually or through computer testing, not all people will be pleased.
It will be noted that one in five families have opted out of the testing within the last three years. This boycott has been fueled by the belief that testing has overshadowed the learning; and therefore has watered down the quality of education. A section of stakeholders in the education sector do not have a problem with this testing regiment. In fact, the largest charter school network in New York celebrated the tests by arranging a rally at a sports arena.
What is the significance of these state tests?
The New York city administration uses the test scores to determine whether a school is productive or not. This is how they decide whether it should close or not. However, there are many other factors that go into making that decision. On the flip-side, policymakers of the state have declared that grades 3-8 math and English exams scores will not count in teacher evaluations. However, this policy will elapse in 2019 and it is not clear what system will determine teacher evaluations. However, a new system is being worked on to provide a way forward on this.
The state tests have become more controversial over the years. This started when the state adopted the new Common Core standards. This meant that tests became harder and therefore students had to work double duty to pass. Also, the stakes were raised for both teachers and schools. Those who are opposed to this system say that there is no more focus on curriculum by teachers. Instead, teachers are always working to prepare students to pass the tests.
In the recent years, changes have been made to the tests. In 2016 for example, the tests were made shorter. In the same year, students were given unlimited time to complete the tests. This was meant to deal with the stress occasioned by strict deadlines. With a 19% statewide boycott of the tests, it is clear that state officials and all stakeholders have their work cut out.