February 8, 2016
Dear Grade 3-8 Parents,
Each year, New York State requires all students in Grades 3-8 to be assessed in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in order to measure progress in meeting the Common Core State Standards. A Science test is also given to students in Grades 4 and 8. The dates for these tests are:
In response to questions from parents considering having their children opt-out of the State tests, I believe the information below will be helpful.
You may be aware that the Commissioner of the State Education Department, in response to teacher and parent concerns, has announced several changes to the State assessments beginning in the spring of 2016. First, the assessments will be shortened, with fewer questions in every grade in both ELA and Math. In addition, the assessments will no longer be timed. This means that as long as students are productively working, they will be allowed as much time as they need to complete the ELA and Mathematics tests. Finally, the State has created regulations which discontinue using the Grades 3 – 8 ELA and Math results in evaluating teachers or principals for the next four school years. School districts must still administer the assessments and they will still be scored.
One of the ways that districts are judged is connected to participation rates on the State tests. If a school does not test at least 95% of its students, the school is not permitted to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which could impact our Title 1 funds and our school and district “Good Standing” status.
The District also uses State assessment results as one data point to inform program placement and required support services for our students. We combine this data with local assessments, grades, and teacher input to obtain a comprehensive picture of each child’s academic strengths and challenges. Students who do not have State assessment results will not be excluded from enrichment programs, advanced classes, or support services if the other data points indicate the student meets the selection criteria.
We recognize and respect the right of parents to make educational decisions about their own children. If you do not want your child to take the State assessments, please put your request in writing to your child’s principal at least a week before each test begins so that we can make alternate arrangements. I am aware that there are websites containing sample opt-out form letters for parents, some of which tie the State Science tests to the Common Core Standards. Please be aware that the Grades 4 and 8 Science assessments are not part of the Common Core and have never been part of the teacher evaluation process. In fact, the Science assessments have not changed in many years.
Children who opt out of the State tests will not remain in the testing room, but will be supervised in another setting. Since our staff members must focus on administering the assessments, no alternative instruction will be provided. Students who are not taking the tests are expected to behave appropriately and either read a book they bring to school or occupy themselves quietly.
If a student is absent for the State assessments, a make-up test will be provided. However, if the student is absent in order to opt out of the test, the parent should inform the principal in writing that this is the reason so that we do not attempt to administer a make-up test. Absences during the State assessment periods will be treated according to our district’s attendance policies. If you choose to keep your child home during the testing periods and he/she arrives after testing has been completed each day, this tardiness will be marked as “Excused.”
Please contact your child’s principal if you have additional questions.