The following is excerpted from a letter to teachers dated 3/24/14 from Commissioner King. The points contained within are worth emphasizing and it is my hope that families will also see that we have a measured approach to assessment. From NYS Commissioner John King,
When you communicate about test procedures, there are a few critical points to reinforce:
1. The best preparation for testing is good teaching. In my visits across New York in the past four years, I have seen many inspired and passionate teachers share new lesson plans that help students learn to problem-solve, think critically, read analytically and communicate clearly. That’s what these new assessments measure. Rather than rote memorization or test taking tricks, these new tests require real analysis of and response to real-world problems and authentic texts.
2. Every question on the New York Common Core Assessment was written for New York, reviewed by New York educators and field-tested with New York students. This is New York’s assessment of our standards and the curriculum taught by our teachers. Do not let anyone say otherwise. Additional information about how the questions are designed can be found at http://www.engageny.org/resource/common-core-assessment-design.
3. Parents and educators know that performance on a single assessment does not tell the whole story about what a student knows and can do. It’s simply one way to determine the overall progress of our schools and our students. Moreover, although placement and retention decisions are made at the district level, the Department neither requires nor encourages districts to make promotion or placement decisions using student performance on state assessments in grades 3-8. If districts choose to consider state assessments in grades 3-8 when making promotion or placement decisions, they should make adjustments to ensure students are not negatively impacted by the Common Core transition and should use multiple measures for this purpose – not grades 3-8 state assessment results alone – including the judgments of a student’s teacher and principal.
4. As we all learned last year when we first administered the Common Core assessments, the test is harder, and the proficiency rates will be lower than on the old tests that did not reflect the higher standards. This does not mean our teachers are any less effective or our students are any less prepared. It simply means we have set higher aspirations as we work to help our students be truly college and career ready.
He goes on to remind us that,
Educators should understand that their evaluations are never based exclusively on test scores, but rather on a range of measures, including principal observation. Last year’s evaluations identified just one percent of teachers in the lowest category (ineffective), and these teachers need to remain in that category for two years in a row – despite receiving additional support through an improvement plan – to even be considered for the new due process dismissal procedure established in the evaluation law. In the meantime, we have – collectively – spent hundreds of millions of dollars on teacher training, curriculum development and support since the standards were adopted in 2010.
Families, while testing has become an integral part of students’ education at every level, we recognize the concerns you may have about the upcoming testing and want to not only alleviate any fears your child may have, but also any concerns you may have about the use of these assessments in placement or grading.
We do not use these assessments as a sole determination in any type of program placement. We simply look at them as another measure of performance we have, in addition to many other valuable measures.
Each child is unique; we look at the whole child in school, not how they perform on any single assessment. We certainly do not want any of our students to stay home simply to avoid taking one of these tests for fear of this. If you have any questions about other ways you can assist your child at home or questions about the testing, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher, principal or reach out to me directly. Thank you for your continued support.