U.S. Department of Education denies New York’s request to forego state tests and Regents exams

State News

NEW YORK STATE (WSYR-TV) — The U.S. Department of Education has denied a request by New York to forego state assessments this year. That means there will be state tests and some Regents exams. 

Those with New York’s education department say that cancelling state assessments would be the fairest and appropriate thing to do, given the ongoing pandemic.

Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. and Commissioner Betty A. Rosa released the following statement:

The U.S. Department of Education chose not to approve New York’s waiver request to forego state assessments this year. In the face of a worldwide pandemic, we believe cancelling state assessments would be the most appropriate and fair thing to do in the best interest of our students and we are deeply disappointed in USDE’s decision. 

While we are grateful for Secretary Cardona’s statement that students learning remotely should not be brought into school solely to take an assessment, the idea that state assessments could be “standardized” is unrealistic given the varying formats of instruction and not including whole segments of our state’s children who will not participate. In fact, the students most in need of state assessments – those receiving remote instruction — are the very children who are not required to take the test. Schools providing remote only instruction tend to be located in urban settings and are more likely to serve communities with higher concentrations of students of color. Data collected by NYSED indicates that parents of students of color were more likely to select remote instruction for their children compared to White parents, and students of color are four times more likely to continue in remote learning once in-person options are made available. As a result, NY students who are most impacted by the pandemic are among the least likely to participate in any statewide assessments. Again, this will have a disturbing impact on the assessment results and render their interpretation meaningless.

Last month, the Department administered a “Survey of Assessment Strategies” to all school districts and charter schools seeking information about their local approaches to student assessment to collect information about the high-quality assessment practices that are taking place at the school and district level throughout the state. We received responses from over 98% of public school districts. The results demonstrate that schools are already assessing students and sharing information with the school community during this extraordinary time.

In a state as large and diverse as New York, one size does not fit all. We are providing as much flexibility for schools as possible within USDE requirements. Accordingly, no students should be brought into school just to take a state assessment. Further, the Department will administer only Session 1 of the grades 3-8 assessments in Mathematics and ELA and only the written test component of the Grades 4 and 8 Science Tests. Additionally, only the Regents Examinations required under ESSA will be given during the June 2021 administration, which are the ELA, Algebra 1, Earth Science and Living Environment Exams. The August 2021 Regents Exams are cancelled. The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) and New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) are being administered according to the established schedules for those students who are able to safely come into school and take the assessments.

USDE had previously agreed to uncouple state assessments from ESSA accountability requirements, including the 95% participation rate for the assessments, so any results from this year’s administrations will be used solely as a measure of student learning.

The State Education Department and the Board of Regents remain committed to the physical and mental health, safety and well-being of the children and adults in our schools.

Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. and Commissioner Betty A. Rosa

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