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MaryEllen Elia: Changes To NY Assessment Tests

  

Earlier this year, the state Board of Regents and I made changes to New York’s assessments and teacher evaluations, which I shared with WAMC listeners at the time. We made those changes in response to feedback we received from the people who are impacted by our actions and decisions.

Since then, I’ve continued to travel extensively throughout the state, speaking with parents, teachers, school administrators and students. And I’ll tell you, they have not been shy about sharing their opinions about how we can improve our standards and assessments here in New York.

The Regents and I continue to listen to their ideas and to make changes that are responsive to their suggestions.

So I’d like to tell you about two of the changes we’ve recently made.

The first change – adopted by the Board earlier this week – will enable more students to graduate from high school, and to do so with a meaningful diploma.

Under the new rules, a student with a disability will be able to earn a local diploma if he or she successfully passes the same coursework that all New York students must pass.

The option applies to students with disabilities who have not been able to pass all of the Regents exams required for graduation – but have, in fact, completed coursework and passed the assessments their schools use as measures of competence and understanding.

Most students with disabilities can meet the state’s learning standards for graduation – so we want to be certain we give them

every opportunity to demonstrate their ability.

The regulations strike the right balance by maintaining the rigor of our graduation requirements. Students using this option must still pass Regents exams in math and English Language Arts in order to graduate.

The new rules take effect on June 20 – just in time for eligible students to graduate this month, together with their classmates.

The local diploma will open doors to college and careers for these students with disabilities – doors that, until now, have not always been available to them.

In my 45 years as an educator, I’ve seen firsthand how students with disabilities can overcome challenges to meet high standards. So I’m thrilled the Regents are providing this option to students who deserve recognition for their hard work and academic achievement.

The other change I’d like to mention involves our state assessments – and how we can make better use of them to improve classroom teaching and learning.

Earlier this month, I announced that we had released 75 percent of the questions from the 2016 Grades 3-8 math and English Language Arts tests. That’s more questions than ever before, and it’s the first time the information has been available this early.

I also announced that, for the first time, educators and parents will be able to review their students’ answers to constructed-response questions, giving them an even clearer picture of how their students are doing.

In my travels around the state, I heard over and over again from educators that the earlier we can get them their test data, the better. And the more questions we can release, the better. So that’s what we did.

The Regents and I will continue to listen – and respond to – the experts. In this case, the experts are our teachers, our school administrators, the students and, of course, their parents. And we are so grateful for their ongoing engagement with us.

MaryEllenElia is New York State Education Commissioner.

 
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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