Thursday, April 4, 2019

Déjà vu: 2019 ELA Assessment: Dear Board of Regents

Dear Board of Regents,

I have copied below an email I sent to you almost a year ago, after the 2018 ELA assessment's computer-based testing failures and most significantly, students working for hours on one portion of the test.

Sadly, after a year has passed, the 2019 ELA Assessment shows nothing has changed.  Commissioner Elia promised better assessments and provided talking points that many districts across New York State used to convince families that the tests had value, were improved, and computer-based testing was the future.  Yet, all of those promises fell flat.  Nothing has changed, including Elia's call in 2018 to hold Questar accountable for its problems last year.

At what point do we hold Commissioner Elia responsible for these continued problems with the state assessment system after months of promises? Nothing has changed.

It is time for new leadership in our state education department.

Of most importance, but not getting enough attention, is the continued issue of students, especially our youngest learners, taking hours to complete the ELA Assessment.  As I noted in the email from April of 2018, NYSED and local districts should be compiling data in regards to how long each student needs to complete the assessments.  After another year of students working beyond a reasonable time-frame, I wonder if the leadership of NYSED really wants that data at all.

Some schools still need to complete their ELA assessments due to the CBT delay.  I strongly suggest you visit a school during the testing period and witness firsthand the impact of the current assessment system.


Feel free to reach out to me to discuss my concerns further. 

Sincerely,
Chris Cerrone
Springville, NY
xxx-xxx-xxxx

Here is the email I sent last year:


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Reduced time for testing? Not so fast.

NYSED and Commish Elia continue to say that the NYS Assessments are of reasonable length, I completely disagree.

Here is what NYSED states are average expected times for completion of the assessments.  Consider the 3rd graders, at age 8, an average time of an hour is completely inappropriate for that age level. 



The reality in a classroom is that the children will be sitting in rows, silent, for much longer.

When NYSED states that testing time is reduced consider the following: 1. Room set up and seating & materials distributed(~15+ minutes) 2. Teachers are mandated to read test instructions verbatim. (~ 20 min)
3. If school is using computer-based testing: student log on to system (5-20+ minutes depending on age & computer glitches- there were many last year) 4. Actual "average" time to complete (60-90 minutes) 5. "Untimed" testing(1.5 hours - 6+ hours)

Minimum 1.5 hours for 8yr olds to sit silently in rows, more if computer testing with minimal glitches. If a third-grade teacher had their students sit silently completing workbooks for 90 minutes that would be educational neglect, yet NYSED allows this practice 4 days .

Regardless of grade level, the NYS assessment system is not age-appropriate just in time alone, add in flawed nature of the test itself, and it is no wonder many families "opt out" of the tests.





Tuesday, March 26, 2019

NYSED Debunked 2019

As the NYS Education Department and Commissioner Elia continue to pressure local districts and schools to increase their state assessment participation, we have seen basically the same letter used as communication with families across the Empire State.

Here is the basic version of what we are seeing as schools mirror the NYSED pro-test talking points:

Let's look at each of these bullet points:


  • Involvement of educators in the test development process:
    • This process is very secretive, but we know through conversations with teachers who have served on past test development teams that the testing companies, formerly Pearson, and now Questar have a vested interest in limiting as many changes as possible when teachers are asked to review the questions developed by these corporations.  Remember, these for-profit corporations have invested time and money in creating the assessments.  Teachers who have served on these review groups have told us that they are discouraged from making significant changes or critiques, and ultimately may not know if their suggestions were followed since the assessment review is secretive and the educators sign documents that they cannot reveal test content.  Do we know if the educators actually had an influence on the assessments?
  • Continued untimed testing.
    • On the surface, this sounds like a good idea.  Some students need more time to process and the perfectionists want to triple check their work, so let's give those students more time if they need it.  (IEP/504 students have always received their proper accommodations)
    • Unfortunately, some students, especially in the elementary grades, cannot self-regulate and realize that they need to stop, this resulted in students working an entire school day.  See this post from the 999ers blog about untimed testing experiences.  
  • A move from a three-day to two-day assessment:
    • Will only a small reduction in actual test questions occur as in 2018, meaning NYSED jamming too much into one session occur again in 2019?
    • Are these age-appropriate times for students, especially 8 year-olds in third grade?  If a third grade teacher had their students sitting in rows for over an hour, would that be educational malpractice.  Also, understand that teachers must read the entire NYSED provided instructions, usually around 20-30 minutes with set up.  In addition, if the school is using computer-based testing, it could add another 30-60 minutes of students sitting quietly.  (Some teachers commented last year that their students were already burned out by the time the instructions were read and computers were set up.

    • Field test questions embedded:  NYSED will place Field Test questions into student assessments.  These field test questions are being tried out to see how students respond to see if those questions should be used in future tests.  Your child will not know which questions/reading passages count (operational questions) or are field test questions.  If a student gets frustrated from a "fake" question or two, could it throw off their concentration for the rest of the assessment?

  • Computer-based testing.
    • Using computer based testing as a positive is not a good idea if you are promoting the assessments.
      • Last year was a nightmare across NYS for computer-based testing:
        • Student log-ins failed.
        • Students lost work and had to start over.
          • Both of the above issues caused very long, sometimes entire school-days devoted to the assessments.
      • The computer-based system requires special test-preparation, for students to learn how to use the challenging interface, especially the math tools.
      • Students who took the computer-based assessments in 2018 scored lowered than students who were assessed by paper.

Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 Refusal Letter

Here is a google doc that is a generic version of my family's 2019 Refusal Letter.

You can also visit NYSAPE for other letters and talking points.