PARENTS’ FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW YORK STATE’S ANNUAL GRADES 3-8 ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & MATHEMATICS TESTS
1. Why do we have an annual statewide test? • New York State’s annual Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Tests are designed to measure how well students are mastering the learning standards that guide classroom instruction and help to ensure that students are on track to graduate from high school with the critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills needed for success in today’s world. • The federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires that students in Grades 3-8 are tested once a year in ELA and math. Additional tests in science are required once in elementary and once in middle school. • For decades, New York State students have been taking State tests. Since higher learning standards were adopted in 2010, no additional required State tests have been introduced for students. 2. When will the 2017 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests be administered? • In 2017, the ELA will be given March 28-30, and the Math May 2-4. • There are make-up test dates for students absent on test days. 3. . What types of questions are asked on the tests? • They include both multiple choice and open-ended questions, which assess grade level learning standards. The questions require students to apply their knowledge and explain their reasoning. Students spend time reading complex texts, writing well-reasoned responses, and solving real-world word problems, all of which provide the foundation for necessary skills to practice and master to succeed in college and careers. • Last spring, the Department released 75-percent of test questions from the 2016 tests – more questions than ever before for this testing program. You can view the 2016 questions at EngageNY (https://www.engageny.org/3-8). • The 2017 tests will have the same number of questions as the 2016 tests. Each 2016 test had fewer test questions in both ELA and math, as compared to previous years. 4. Why is it important for my child to take these tests? • These tests provide teachers and schools with information that can be used to guide their instruction and class planning and help them to understand how well students are progressing in the skills and concepts being taught in the classroom. • Results from the tests also help identify achievement gaps among different student populations. Without widespread participation in the tests, it is more difficult for school and district leaders to recognize these gaps and provide support and resources to the students who need them. 5. Are there testing accommodations for students with disabilities? • Yes, testing accommodations are changes made in the administration of the test in order to remove obstacles to the test-taking process that are presented by the student’s disability without reducing expectations for learning. Specific testing accommodations are recommended for individual students by the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Section 504 Committee based on the student’s unique needs.
• Testing accommodations must be documented on students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or Section 504 plans and could include: flexibility in scheduling/timing (e.g., extending the time of a test); flexibility in the test setting (e.g., testing in a separate location); changes in test presentation (e.g., enlarged print); and changes in the method of response (e.g., use of a scribe for written responses). • Principals are responsible for ensuring that accommodations for students with disabilities are implemented on all State and local tests consistent with the recommendations in the IEP/Section 504 plan and in accordance with Department policy.
6. What will I learn from my child’s score report? • The results of the annual assessments give you information about your child’s academic progress and achievement. You will be able to see how your child did in comparison to other students across the State. The score report will be ready over the summer. • In addition to providing an overall scale score and performance level, both the ELA and math reports show how your child scored in specific skill and concept areas. For example, the ELA report provides scores for both reading and writing; the math report provides scores for the key math concepts for that grade level. This information helps your child’s teacher(s) understand where your child is doing well and where he or she needs more support. • The score reports for parents were redesigned in 2016 to be to be more useful and understandable.
7. How will my child’s scores be used? • You can use your child’s scores to guide a discussion with your child’s teacher(s) about additional supports that may be needed in class, as well as other ways you may be able to support your child’s learning at home. • Scores can also be used to see how well schools, districts, and the State are progressing with New York’s learning standards. • State law and regulations of the Commissioner of Education prohibit school districts from making promotion or placement decisions based solely or primarily on student performance on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. Scores are not currently used to evaluate teachers in an official way.
8. What if my child did well on his or her report card but did not do as well on the State tests? • The annual tests are only one of several measures that are used to gauge your child’s academic performance and represent a snap shot in time. • Report card grades are cumulative and based on many factors, including class participation, homework, attendance, quizzes, tests, and other instructional activities, all of which are important in determining a child’s academic achievement but are not reflected in the annual State test results.
9. How long are the tests? • The ELA and Math Tests are each given over a three-day period. It is estimated that students in Grades 3 and 4 will spend about 60-70 minutes on the test each day .In general, the tests take up less than 1-percent of the total time a student spends in class each year.
10. How are New York State teachers involved in the test development process? • NYS teachers review and approve every passage and question on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. • During test development, teachers from across the State gathered in Albany multiple times to evaluate and select questions for the 2017 tests. Every question on the 2017 tests was reviewed by at least 22 educators. • Since 2016, New York State teachers have been engaged in writing future test questions. These questions will first appear on the 2018 tests.
11 . What else is being done to improve the testing program?
• New York State teachers will continue to be highly involved in the development of future exams to ensure that they closely correspond with classroom activities and the State learning standards. • The Department is helping more districts to transition to computer-based testing, which will eventually make results available more quickly. • As in 2016, the Department will release 75-percent of the test questions and return instructional reports to teachers before the end of the school year.