Say yes to state tests.
It's the message of a radio ad you may soon hear on your Pandora station, and it's being funded by a nonprofit called High Achievement New York.
“These things are put in place so we can have the data to drive the necessary support where it's needed,” said Bryon McIntyre.
Mcintyre says it wasn't in place when his son was in the Buffalo Public School system. “I'm a parent with a son in the penitentiary because the education system failed him. As hard as I tried, we had no way of measuring his success.”
The tests have been highly scrutinized in the past by parents like Chris Cerroni. “It narrowed the curriculum and I want my children to learn history, science, the arts and that wasn't happening all the time.”
That’s why Cerroni said both of his children will once again be opting out this year.
But supporters—like High Achievement New York and the Buffalo Parent Coordinating Council-- are more focused on test results and they said the tests continue to improve year to year. According to the New York State Education Department, the following changes were implemented last year and will remain in place this year, too:
Fewer Test Questions: The number of test questions on the 2017 tests will be the same as the 2016 tests. Each of the 2016 Grades 3-8 ELA Tests had one less reading passage and fewer questions than tests from previous years. The 2016 Math Tests also had fewer questions.
Greater Teacher Involvement: Hundreds of New York State educators were involved in creating and reviewing the 2017 assessments. Beginning in fall 2015 and going forward, a greater number of New York State teachers has been —and will continue to be— involved in the review of all test questions and construction of test forms. Teachers from across the State gathered in Albany throughout the summer and fall of 2016 to evaluate and select questions for the 2017 tests. For the first time ever, New York State teachers will write the test questions for the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. These questions will first be used on the 2018 tests.
Faster Results for Teachers: Like last year, the State Education Department plans to have instructional reports returned to teachers by the end of the school year and release at least 75-percent of the test questions.
Untimed Testing: The 2017 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests will be untimed so students who need more time to demonstrate what they know and can do will be able to work at their own pace. The 2016 tests were also untimed. In general, this means that as long as students are working productively, they will have as much time as they need to complete their test, within the confines of the regular school day.
Improved Resources for Parents: Also like last year, the 2017 Score Reports for parents will feature the updated clearer design and more information about what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. These will be ready over the summer.
“Proficiency levels have gone up including in African Americans and Latino communities. There needs to be more work done to close achievement gaps. But, we're starting to see results,” High Achievement Executive Director, Stephen Sigmund.
“It's terribly personal for me. Say yes to the test so we know where our children are at,” added McIntyre.
State tests begin next week.