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Test result delays throw kink in summer planning

Test result delays throw kink in summer planning

While educators knew to expect the delays, many still say delays make it harder to prepare for the school year
Test result delays throw kink in summer planning
Photographer: Stock images

Results of annual state tests in math and English aren't likely to come until mid-September or later, according to state education officials -- a delay that is hampering plans for the coming school year. 

The holdup -- the tests were administered to third- through eighth-graders in the spring -- was signaled earlier in the year, when state officials rolled out changes to shorten the tests from three to two days. 

While educators knew to expect the delays, many still say they make it harder to plan.

“We are seeing some data, just not all the data,” said Brita Donovan, who in May was promoted from curriculum director to superintendent at the Galway school district. “Right now, we have grade level teams (planning together), and it would be very, very helpful to have that information,” she said of the test results.

Educators use the test results to hone in on areas with which individual students are struggling, as well as areas in which entire classes, individual schools or grades are having difficulty. If the scores on particular types of questions come in low for a lot of students, teachers and administrators may tailor curriculum changes to focus on that subject.

“That data is invaluable when you are planning what are we hitting on the mark and those things students are doing wrong,” Donovan said. “We make it work, but the planning is going on now, so however many days into the school year we go (without results), that time is lost.”

In June, the state Education Department released 75 percent of the questions that appeared on the tests, giving teachers a chance to see directly what types of questions were asked. Those questions can be used to prepare assignments or practice tests during the school year. When the state released the questions this year, it warned that the results would be delayed as educators from across the state reviewed the standards used to determine final scores.

“Given the need for the standards review, the statewide scores will be released in mid-to-late September,” stated the June announcement. Districts were provided initial results based on raw scores that did not include how many students met proficiency standards on the tests.

State officials expect the results to be turned around faster in future years, according to a department spokesperson. In 2017, the results were released Aug. 22; in 2016, they were released on July 29.

Amsterdam Superintendent Vicky Ramos said the delay in getting the math and ELA test results was a challenge, but she was even more concerned about receiving the results of the state’s assessment of students learning English as a second language.

Students in all grades who qualify as English language learners must take the New York State English as a second language achievement Test in the spring; depending on how they perform on the test, the students are assigned academic supports for the school year.

About 250 Amsterdam students took the test this year.

Students' schedules are determined by what language supports they need, based on how they perform on the language achievement test. The results of those tests have a direct impact on what classes students can and cannot take. Ideally, those schedules are pretty well set by the start of the school year, Ramos said.

“In the best world, you want the best organization design when school starts; you want as little disruption as possible,” Ramos said. “Not having those results impacts student schedules.”

A state Education Department official said on Thursday that districts should have results from the English as a second language test in the middle of August.

Ramos also said the math and ELA test results – though not as immediately impactful as the language test – are useful in determining where academic weaknesses persist for students.

“If, districtwide, our kids did not master that skill, we know there has to be something with curriculum -- there has to be something with content,” Ramos said. “That is huge for me, and we don’t have that analysis right now.”

This spring was also the first year with widespread computer-based testing in districts across the state. The computer testing was marred by delays and difficulties submitting test results. Some local districts delayed the tests for a day, after struggling with the computer system for as much as two hours.

Educators have said they are worried the results from those tests will not compare evenly, since students faced varying delays and struggles to get through the tests.

“I’m worried about it being apples and oranges,” said Donovan of comparing the computer-based test results to previous years' results. “There was a lot of angst, with staff as well. I don’t think that was a good environment.”

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