The day after state education officials promised to make no changes to annual math and English tests for two years, they changed course and opened the door to changes in 2018, citing the uncertainty of a new presidential administration.
On Monday, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said, “We should not make another change to the test for the next two years,” a sentiment echoed by other regents. After that announcement, the state Education Department sent out a press released headlined: “No changes to grades 3-8 ELA & math tests in 2017 or 2018.”
But by Tuesday afternoon, Rosa pointed to policy “uncertainty” in light of the forthcoming Donald Trump presidency. She said education officials would not make changes to the spring 2017 tests, but they were open to considering changes for the tests to be given in the spring of 2018.
“The [Education] Commissioner [MaryEllen Elia] and this board are absolutely open to continuing that discussion into the following year and thereby continuing the input of our constituents . . . from both parents and teachers and others who have a vested interest in our children,” Rosa said during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The state Education Department said in a statement Thursday that, “given the recent events of the past month” and a conversation the Regents had with education experts later Monday evening, the board was open to discussing changes for 2018.
In addition to uncertainty regarding a new presidential administration, the statement cites possible changes to the laws and regulations that require states to administer an annual statewide test to students in grades three to eight.
“At this time, there is uncertainty, and opportunities may emerge with a new administration in Washington,” department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in the prepared statement. “In fact, there are indications that the new administration may provide further flexibility to the states. We want to maintain the ability to gather all of the facts before making any determinations for 2018.”
The spring 2016 tests included changes that eliminated time limits and asked students to answer slightly fewer questions. Those changes will remain in place for the 2017 tests.
Even bigger changes could be in store for 2019, the year officials are eyeing as the first year in which tests will be based on education standards currently under revision.
Superintendents and education experts raised concerns that the tests are less useful for drawing conclusions about student and school performance when the tests change from year to year.
But many of the parents who have refused to let their children participate in the tests — around 20 percent statewide in each of the past two years — said the changes didn’t go far enough to address their concerns about the state’s overemphasis on “high stakes” testing.
Regent Roger Tilles said Monday, after Rosa made her first announcement, that the board should be prepared for test refusals to persist if no more testing changes were planned.
Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.