Last year, New York State (and all other state) ELA and Math tests, given every year to students in grades 3-8 were cancelled by the federal government. This year, some states, including New York, again applied to cancel the federally-mandated tests required by the U.S. government, but were denied. The tests are scheduled to begin about April 19.
As part of a federal mandate, schools must also test high school students in ELA, math, and science in June. Those subjects will be tested by the state’s Regents tests, while non-required (federally) courses may have their Regents exams cancelled.
The desire to cancel the tests stems from the fact that instruction in New York Schools is very uneven, due to the pandemic. While schools in some states are fully open, other schools are still remote or hybrid. The New York State United Teachers supported the move to cancel the tests, so some compromises were made.
The federal government will not mandate the test scores be used to decide if schools are ineffective or to give or deny aid, as they have in the past. Furthermore, there is more room for flexibility in the delivery of the tests, with remote testing, and extension of deadlines for completion, even into the summer, this year. Tests can also be much shorter than in other years.
Although this is one of the first actions of the Biden administration, to stand by an edict made by Trump’s Secretary of Educaiton Betsy DeVos’ statement that schools should not be expecting a waiver of the tests for this year, the lack of a current Department of Education head was noted as a barrier to changing the policy already put into place by DeVos. The letter from the U.S. Department of Education informing the schools of the federal decision, was signed by Ian Rosenlum, acting assistant secretary in the Office o Elementary and Secondary Education. Biden’s choice for education secretary, former Connecticut Education Commission Miguel Cardona, has not yet been confirmed by the legislature.
This is one of the first major education policy decisions made by the Biden administration. It is consistent with the position of the Trump administration, under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said last year that states should not expect waivers from testing.Biden’s choice for education secretary, former Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, has not yet been confirmed, but decisions on the matter were requested to be made as soon as possible.Monday’s letter from the U.S. Department of Education informing schools of these decisions was signed by Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The waiver request was sent in by the New York State Education Department, in late January. The Education Trust-New York was part of a coalition of education, business and civil rights groups that released a statement Feb. 2 calling on the state to administer the 3-8 tests, even if they would have to be remote, shortened and later in the spring than normal. Those against having the testing worried it would eat up precious teaching time, and would possibly not be reliable, if given remotely, as was suggested. Others felt testing was a good thing this year, to see exactly where students were in their studies with the interruption of the pandemic, hybrid learning, and other factors interfering with forward progress. In addition, although the federal government is allowing shortened tests, many districts would be hard pressed to come up with a new, shorter or revised test, and have it published and ready to go by April.
Other educators have argued for months that administering tests would eat up precious instructional time and resources for little gain, and would put undue stress on children and teachers.
New York State students in grades 3-8 should expect some sort of testing in English Language Arts and Math, in compliance with federal laws. The New York State Education Department will make decisions on which Regents exams will be held, and which cancelled, with only Regents that don’t fulfill national mandates having a possibility of being cancelled. However, it has been noted that passing the Regents tests will not be a requirement for passing the course this year.