‘Double testing’ in math over for 7th, 8th graders

01/07/2014 7:00 AM |
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at a public forum in November.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at a public forum in November.

Seventh and eighth graders enrolled in New York public schools will no longer have to take the math state assessments come this spring, according to a press release issued Thursday.

Previously, those students taking Algebra I or geometry would sit for both the Regents exam and the state assessment — a practice referred to as “double testing.”

The federal government has now accepted New York State’s request to waive the state assessment mandate, thus eliminating double-test pressures for nearly 60,000 students.

Federal approval was needed to waive the math assessment requirements because all state assessments are mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, including grades 3 through 8 assessments; secondary-level exams in English, math and science; alternate assessments for students with disabilities; and annual assessments for English language learners, officials said.

State education department commissioner John King, who has come under fire in recent months from angry parents and teachers over the state’s implementation of new rigorous curriculum tied to teacher evaluations, said in a press release this week that he’s committed to reducing the amount of time students spend on tests.

Mr. King also announced last fall that the number of questions and testing time on state assessments for students in grades 3 through 8 will be reduced this school year.

Meanwhile, his department has asked the U.S. Department of Education to ease testing requirements for ESL students. The state is also asking the federal government for permission to base testing on “instructional level” rather than “chronological age” for students with significant cognitive disabilities and aren’t eligible for the New York State Alternate Assessment.

“Testing is an important part of the instructional cycle and good, sound assessments are necessary to monitor student academic progress, but we have repeatedly said that the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making,” Mr. King said. “Our successful waiver request is an example of New York’s commitment to smarter, leaner testing.”

While some local school superintendents welcomed the announcement of the waiver, they also believe the state needs to do more.

“It’s the least they can do,” Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said when asked for comment on the state’s announcement.

Mr. Cohen said he believes implementation of the new academic standards was rushed and fails to address how family income levels play a major role in student performance.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said although he’s pleased the double test has been eliminated, he would like to see the state’s one-size-fits-all approach toward education come to an end, too.

“We’re not opposed to preparing students,” he said. “Students, parents, teachers and Boards of Education should be a part of developing curriculum for the future.”

jennifer@timesreview.com