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State School Tests Will Take Place This Year

Standardized testing for third through eighth graders is likely to take place this year despite New York education officials’ request for another cancellation.

For nearly 20 years federal law has required schools to test third through eighth grade students once each year in math and reading as well as once in high school. The tests were canceled in March 2020 due to COVID-19, and the New York Education Department had sought to again postpone the tests in New York because students in different schools are learning on different schedules due to the pandemic.

New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and Georgia are among the states that were requesting waivers to postpone this year’s testing. While the federal government wants the testing to take place, it is giving states more flexibility in administering the tests. States can give a shortened version of the test, offer remote testing where feasible or expand the testing window into the summer or start of the 2021-22 school year.

“The intent of these flexibilities, and the accountability waivers described above, is to focus on assessments to provide information to parents, educators, and the public about student performance and to help target resources and supports. For that reason, we are not inviting blanket waivers of assessments. We also recognize that individual states may need additional assessment flexibility based on the specific circumstances across or within the state, and we will work with states to address their individual needs and conditions while ensuring the maximum available statewide data to inform the targeting of resources and supports,” wrote Ian Rosenblum, who had been delegated to perform the duties of assistant secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The New York Education Department’s request to cancel the tests came about two weeks after the state’s largest teachers’ union sent a letter to Betty Rosa, interim state education commissioner, requesting a cancellation.

Jolene DiBrango, New York State United Teachers vice president, said in the letter that the union has concerns about school districts across the state taking the same tests while having hundreds of different scheduling and learning plans.

“Throughout this school year there has not been a standardized mode of instruction across the state,” DiBrango said in the letter. “Schools have varying degrees of in person, hybrid, and remote instruction. Without standardized instructional modes there should not be a standardized test at the end of the year. On top of this, teachers are trying to address the social emotional needs of students caused by the pandemic and racial unrest caused by the death of George Floyd. Given the recent surge, it is unlikely that will change much for the rest of the school year, we urge you to request a federal waiver of the grade 3-8 and high school testing requirements to relieve the current pressure on the school system.”

DiBrango also had questions about the testing’s relationship to the state’s Next Generation Learning Standards. The state Board of Regents adopted revised English Language Arts and Mathematics learning standards in September 2017 with full implementation scheduled to begin in September in time for new third- through eighth-grade tests measuring students’ abilities starting in the spring of 2022.

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