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State's student testing chief quits

A file photo of school exams in progress.

A file photo of school exams in progress. Photo Credit: AP, 2005

The state's chief of student testing has quit abruptly, following the state Department of Education's disavowal of his announcement that spring English tests for elementary-age children would be expanded to more than four hours in length.

David Abrams, 50, resigned Tuesday from his $147,000-a-year post as the department's assistant commissioner for assessments, agency officials confirmed. For the past eight years, Abrams had supervised administration of more than 5 million tests annually.

He did not respond Friday to a call to his home.

An Education Department spokesman, Tom Dunn, declined Friday to discuss the reasons for Abrams' resignation, citing privacy issues.

The sudden departure followed Abrams' announcement Monday of a spring schedule that would have included dramatic increases in time required for English testing in grades 3-8. The announcement, emailed to local school superintendents, ignited protests across the state.

"Fatigue is our concern," said Lorna Lewis, superintendent of East Williston schools and chairman of a curriculum committee for the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

"Everyone who read that memo was absolutely flabbergasted by the proposed amount of time we would be testing third- and fourth-grade students," added Henry Grishman, the Jericho schools chief and a past council president.

Under Abrams' plan, for example, an expanded fourth-grade English language arts test would have consumed four hours and 15 minutes -- not including extra time allotted for reading a listening section aloud to students. Last spring's test at that grade level required two hours and 40 minutes to complete.

Moreover, the fourth-grade English battery, like those at other grade levels, would have been packed into two consecutive days of testing. In contrast, last spring's English tests in grades 3-5 were spread over three days.

Department staffers have repeatedly said over the past year that tests should be lengthened but squeezed into fewer days in order to safeguard security.

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