The State Needs To Be Asking The Right Questions

If members of New York’s Board of Regents have questions about the state’s annual English language arts and math tests, why shouldn’t parents?

It’s a good question, because one has to seriously doubt the usefulness of the tests after listening to members of the Board of Regents discuss the last round of test results.

Regent Lester Young of Brooklyn wondered what is happening to students who consistently perform below proficiency levels. Regent Wade Norwood of Rochester noted that children who do well in pre-school may be struggling by the time they get to third grade because schools and teachers are trying to have students do well on state tests rather than learning in an style that suits children. Regent Susan Mittler wondered if the entire curriculum needs to be changed and if the state is measuring the right things correctly to show if students are learning or not. Regent Judith Johnson noted the lack of gains over the past 20 years while saying that gaps between low-income students and students with a more wealthy background are unacceptable. Regent Roger Tilles pointed out that the testing was supposed to be diagnostic in nature and looked forward to new assessments that are, in fact, geared to pointing out students’ weak areas so they can receive help. Lastly, Regent Kathleen Cashin from Kings County said the slight gains and losses in proficiency that are discussed mask a bigger issue — that the tests and the time when results are released comes too late to help teachers in the classroom,

“What do we get from that?” Cashin asked. “We go through this every year, and what do we learn?”

New York is looking for its next state education commissioner after the recent resignation of Mary Ellen Elia. The Regents’ questions should be asked of each and every candidate for the job, because they are many of the same questions asked by parents every spring when the time comes for their children to take three days of ELA and math tests.


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