New York State Reduces Grades 3-8 Testing from Three to Two Days, and, We Learn: Test Creation is Complicated, and the Results – Relatively Meaningless.

In the summer of 2015 I was at a fundraiser for a local candidate on Long Island and talked with a number of leaders of local teacher unions. They had endorsed Zephyr Teachout who was running against Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent governor, in the democratic primary. I mentioned that if Cuomo won, there would be consequences.

Cuomo won, and in the “big ugly,” the rolling together of non-budgetary items into the budget Cuomo added a number of anti-teacher/teacher union policies. He expended probation from three to four years and also added a number of pro-charter school laws.

Payback can be a bitch. Politics is all about winning and losing.

NYSUT, the New York State United Teachers, the state-wide teacher union began a series of anti-Cuomo TV ads and joined up with the opt-out parents. The governor’s favorability ratings nose dived.

Let us not forget the first teacher who was terminated was Socrates, accused “corruption of the youth of the city-state,” and, since there was no union, the punishment, the 3020a of the era, was quite harsh.

“...consistent with common legal practice, the jurors voted and agreed to a sentence of death to be executed by Socrates drinking a poisonous beverage of hemlock

In the 1790’s two of our founding fathers, Jefferson and Hamilton, were bitter rivals,  Jefferson, surreptitiously hired James Callender, a sleazy publisher, who unearthed and publicly exposed a Hamilton affair with a married women, Maria Reynolds, an affair that may have been arranged by the woman’s husband. Callender later turned on Jefferson accusing him of fathering mixed race children, which happened to be true.

Politics is a full contact sport

In September, 2015 Cuomo appointed a commission, similar in membership to a commission appointed a few years earlier. The earlier commission held meetings around the state, hours and hours of testimony, and issued a report that came to naught. The 2015 commission (called a task force) met  quietly and issued a report in December, 2015, an attempt, on the part of Cuomo, the Regents and the unions, to repair relationships and set a path for education in the state. The task force (read full report here) made twenty-one recommendations.

The last recommendation removed a thorn in the body of the teaching force,

Until the new system (whatever that is …) is fully phased in the results from assessments aligned to the common core standards, as well as the updated standards, shall only be advisory and not used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers or students.

A few of the other recommendations,

Adopt high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through an open and transparent process

Modify early grade standards so that they are age-appropriate.


Reduce the number of days and shorten the duration for standards-aligned State standardized tests.

The Commissioner can check off another item on her “to do” list.

Early Monday morning the Standards Work Group of the Regents convened and the “discussion” dragged on for a few hours. Regent Chin skillfully guided the discussion. Scott Marion, one of the consultants leading the process, described himself as a “recovering psychometrician,” presented a dense and fascinating power point. If you’re taking a “testing and measurement” course and have always been baffled by test creation and design take a look at the Marion power point.

Considerations for New York State Assessments:

Especially check out “The Life Cycle of an ELA Test Item (slide 17),” – fascinating.

The bottom line: every change has consequences, every plus has a minus, every change, a new baseline, a shorter test, fewer items, fewer days, less accurate, a “new” configuration, more time to score the test, One of the Regents described the test as an “accountability,” not a “diagnostic” test. Marion, politely demurred. yes, the test is used for accountability, to compare schools/school districts to the previous year, less useful for an individual student; however, school leaders can use the results to construct error matrices and use the results to guide instruction and professional development in the following year.

The members of the Board approved the motion to move from three days of testing for ELA and math to two days, with, I believe Regents Brown and Young abstaining. Correctly, they worried about a cycle of changes that would be confusing to the public.

Last year was the first year of untimed tests, although the scores jumped there was no baseline, we have no idea if the scores jumped due to better instruction, or, probably, due to extended time. This year’s scores will be compared to the baseline, last year’s scores; however, next year, a new baseline year.

The 2018 test, a two-day test, will create a new baseline, and, the 2019 tests can be compared to 2018. Of course, if the Regents implement the Next Generation of Standards, guess what, another baseline year has to be established.

Are we entering into a cycle of meaningless testing years? Yup ….

Next year the Regents will begin to explore alternative assessments, and, having everyone, from the governor on down on the same page, just may result in substantive changes.

And, of course, that core question: why and what are we testing?

One response to “New York State Reduces Grades 3-8 Testing from Three to Two Days, and, We Learn: Test Creation is Complicated, and the Results – Relatively Meaningless.

  1. The testing was designed as a weapon to destroy the community-based, democratic, transparent, non-profit, traditional public schools, teachers’ unions, and the teaching profession. That is their only purpose when the test results are used to rank and punish only real public school teachers and close real public schools.

    >>> Corporate charter schools paid for by the public are NOT public schools.

    >>> Vouchers paid for by the public are not meant to go to public schools. The purpose of vouchers is to have the public pay for religious schools that will indoctrinate the children in those religions. Anyone interested to find out the religion that Betsy DeVos will support, check out here religious history.

    >>> Virtual corporate schools paid for by the public are NOT public schools and even though they have the lowest high school graduation rate in the United States, and little or no evidence the children that attend this virtual schools learn anything, the corporate education pirates/frauds behind the reform movement never demand that they be tested and closed.


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