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State Education Department releases test questions

State Education Department releases test questions

Educators say information is helpful
State Education Department releases test questions
Photographer: Shutterstock

The Department of Education announced last week it will release 75 percent of the questions from this year’s grades three to eight English Language Arts and Math tests. This is the second year the state is making such a large amount of data available to teachers, administrators and parents.

The questions and answers are posted online at engageNY.org and are organized by grade level and subject area. The state hopes the additional information will assist districts and teachers in making instructional choices and changes as appropriate.

“Releasing more test questions before the school year ends helps educators use the assessments as learning tools to improve classroom instruction,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa in a prepared statement.

In the Scotia-Glenville Central School District, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Swain appreciates the greater transparency and finds the release of test questions to be highly helpful.

“It’s an opportunity for us to talk about the expectations of the standards,” Swain said. “Connecting the test data with the question itself is powerful. We can see what was asked and how it was asked.”

This year, the state will release student scores by June 12. This is at least two months earlier than in previous years. Districts will be able to see how each student did on a question-by-questions basis.

This information is powerful because educators can see if a high number of students all got the same question wrong. Knowing where students are struggling allows teachers to focus on specific areas.

“If we see from the data that most students got question 34 wrong, we can go to the test, read the question and try to figure out why that happened,” said Swain.

Swain said that while the amount of information from the state is very useful, the Scotia-Glenville school district has a high opt-out rate (around 40 percent), and relying solely on state-provided reports does not paint a complete picture of students’ academic achievement. 

“We’re hesitant to make systematic changes based on partial data,” she said. “Until we have a more robust data set, we use our own measures.”

The Niskayuna Central School District also makes use of the information released by the state, and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill said that the earlier schools receive information, the better.

“In the past, we’ve received results the last two weeks in August,” Gemmill said. “At that point, the students have moved on and are no longer with that teacher.”

She also said the availability of more test questions and answers is helpful, but as is the case in Scotia-Glenville, the information is only a part of the equation.

“We use the information from the state to see how we’re doing in areas compared to other schools and if we’re meeting state expectations,” she said. “We use that information and other measures to make any changes to instruction.”

The state also makes the questions available to the public.

In the constructed-response portion of the test, students are asked to read a passage and answer a question based on what they read. In the seventh-grade test, students read about solar panels and were asked to respond.

In another portion of the test, students were asked to read a passage and answer multiple-choice questions for comprehension.

In still another section, students read a passage and gave short, written responses to questions.

The math test this year included multiple-choice, short-response and long-response questions.

One of the multiple choice fifth-grade questions was: Tara baked 6 ½ dozen cookies. She sold 3 2/6 dozen of the cookies she made. How many cookies does Tara have remaining? 

  • 3 ⅙
  • 3 ¼
  • 3 ⅜
  • 3 ⅚

On the same fifth-grade test, a short-response question read:

  • Three students performed a science experiment using salt and a beaker. The beaker contained 530.2 grams of salt before the experiment started. During the experiment, each of the 3 students removed 47.36 grams of salt from the beaker. How much salt, in grams, was left in the beaker at the end of the experiment? Show your work.

To see the English Language Arts and Math tests from 2017, go to engageNY.org.

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