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School districts slam state's plan for trial testing

NYS Board of Regents members (left to right)

NYS Board of Regents members (left to right) John King, Anthony Bottar and Milton Cofield follow the proceedings during Monday's board meeting in Albany. (March 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Foley

Contending that upcoming state tests could exhaust young students, some Long Island school districts have threatened to boycott newly scheduled May 4 trial testing of questions intended to be used in the state's future assessments in English and math.

In response to the uproar, state education officials said late Friday that the trials requiring about an hour of students' time might be switched to alternate dates that they did not specify.

Some Island school superintendents expressed relief over Albany's potential concession, saying they seemed to be catching the ear of state officials who have not always heeded their concerns in the past.

Others said that rescheduling dates will not change the fact that students are over-tested. For example, eighth-graders who are academically advanced face state testing on a dozen days between April 26 and the end of the school year, assuming the trials are included.

"The amount of pressure on kids as young as 8 is absolutely ridiculous," said Henry Grishman, superintendent of Jericho schools and president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.

The flap began with the circulation last week of a memo from David Abrams, the state's assistant commissioner for assessment. The memo announced that all of the state's approximately 1.3 million students in grades 3-8 were to participate in May 4 trial tests.

Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said Friday that the trials were part of Education Commissioner David Steiner's plan to strengthen test questions - a move that could also boost the state's chances of winning hundreds of millions of dollars in federal "race to the top" grants. Dunn added that this would be the first time that test questions were tried out in advance in every school, rather than on a sample basis.

Many school district administrators statewide contend it's impossible to test so many students on a single day, according to Robert Lowry, deputy director of the State Council of School Superintendents. Many also note that May 4 falls between three days of state testing in English and another three days of math testing, all previously scheduled.

Wendell Chu, superintendent of East Islip schools and president of the Suffolk County Association of School Superintendents, said he received e-mailed objections from more than two dozen colleagues in other districts. Chu added that school boards in some districts were considering a boycott if trials were held May 4, but that trials held later and spread over several days might work.

Bay Shore officials are among those who have discussed a possible boycott.

"We have teachers who are basically teaching to tests," said Andrew Arcuri, a board member and father of four, including a sixth-grader. "I think all the testing just runs counter to what teachers try to accomplish in educating children."

Many superintendents said Friday the state's scheduling of trials was reminiscent of a decision announced abruptly last spring to switch this year's grade 3-8 testing from winter to spring. The change required most districts to rewrite their entire calendars for this school year.

Testing schedule

Here is a typical state testing schedule this spring for eighth-graders who are academically advanced. This includes trial tests - originally scheduled for May 4, but subject to possible change - of questions intended for use in future assessments.

 

April 26-28: English (two days required)

May 4: trial testing in English and math

May 5-7: math (two days)

May 24-June 3: science lab (one day)

June 7: written science

June 14-15: social studies (both days)

June 18: accelerated Regents algebra

June 21: world language proficiency

June 22: accelerated Regents earth science

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