No students learning in a remote-only model will be forced to take statewide math and English tests this spring but will have the chance to participate if they want to, according to new state testing guidance released this week.
While state officials pushed for a federal waiver to cancel all state tests, federal education officials have indicated they won’t grant such waiver – and so the tests must go on.
For students in third through eighth grades that means the annual English language arts and math tests are still scheduled to happen in April and May, respectively. The tests will be shortened to one day, and schools will have more than a week to complete testing of students.
The new guidance distributed to districts this week formalized promises that state and federal officials have made that students will not be asked to come into a school building for the sole purpose of state testing.
“Schools are not expected to bring students into the building to participate in the tests if they students are receiving entirely remote instruction during the testing windows,” Steven Katz, a state education assistant commissioner, wrote in the memo to school districts.
Schools will mark non-testing remote students as “receiving entirely remote instruction” on the student’s answer sheet. But families with remote students can choose to participate in the tests conducted at school if they want. Districts will be expected to communicate the options to families.
Like in previous school years, all students and families, regardless of their current status as an in-person or remote student, have the right to opt out of the state tests. In past years statewide opt-out rates rose to about 20 of the state’s eligible students, though had fallen slightly in recent years. The numbers could well soar again this year, and many advocates have lambasted the federal government’s decision to still require the test. Others have argued the tests will provide insights into the needs of students after a deeply-disrupted year of learning.
Districts were still processing the new guidance this week. Schenectady acting Superintendent Aaron Bochniak when asked what the testing would look like for students said a work group was looking at the new guidance and would make recommendations of how to move forward.
“We are digesting the guidance and developing a plan in response to it,” Bochniak said.
The English Language Arts tests are set to commence April 19, and schools will have until April 29 to complete administering the test. Math testing starts May 3, and schools will have until May 14 to finish testing. Districts can still administer the tests in paper form or through a computer-based system.
For hybrid students who attend school in person some days but not others, schools will be able to administer the tests to students on the days they are scheduled to attend school in person. And districts do not have to have a uniform testing schedule for all schools in the district.
Districts will only be required to administer the first part of the two-part tests, primarily multiple-choice based questions. Districts will still receive the second portion of the tests and can use them for internal assessment of students. When the results are ultimately released, they will not be used for the purpose of determining whether a school or district falls under state accountability rules.
The Board of Regents on Monday agreed for a second year to suspend the state’s Regents exams as a graduation requirement, allowing students to instead meet diploma requirements by passing the classes associated with the required exams.
The state will still administer four Regents exams in June in order to meet federal requirements: algebra 1, ELA, living environment and earth science. The tests are scheduled for June 17-24.
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