BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The New York State Education Department is seeking waivers to halt standardized testing for third through eighth graders and Regents for high school students due to the pandemic.
“The assessments right now are going to have to be responsive to the differences and the environment that each child experienced during this pandemic,” stated Wendy Paterson, dean, School of Education, SUNY Buffalo.
With all the different learning circumstances students are facing because of COVID-19, state education leaders drafted a letter that is posted on its website. The letter is addressed to the U.S. Department of Education asking for permission to stop the assessments this spring.
It reads in park, “We have determined that the spring 2021 state assessments cannot be safely, equitably and fairly administered to students in schools across the state".
Students in some districts, like Buffalo, have not been in a classroom since last March.
Dean Paterson says the state assessments were not created for remote learning.
“Sometimes we're discounting the impact of all this remote learning and the responsibility that we are placing on families and parents,” describe Paterson.
Jessica Bauer-Walker, a Buffalo school parent, said there still must be some type of assessment to measure student learning.
“There's been a significant amount of learning loss, so we need to kind of assess where we are at and make sure that kids aren't falling through the cracks,” Bauer-Walker explained.
Bauer-Walker said she's very worried about equity for children in city schools.
“Because I’m really concerned that the kids are falling through the cracks and that we do need to make sure they are doing okay,” noted Bauer-Walker. “We had major equity issues before the pandemic and we know that's just worsened — you know there are some kids that are basically missing in terms of the education system.”
The state education department is seeking stakeholder input, posting an on-line survey, asking school leaders, teachers, parents and community members if they believe assessments should not be given this spring.
The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is also calling for a federal waiver to stop the ELA and math assessments for third through eighth graders as well as the Regents tests for high schoolers.
“If you haven't had a standardized mode of instruction all year — then you shouldn't have one standardized test at the end of the year to measure the students progress,” said Jolene DiBrango, executive vice president, NYSUT.
The union, which represents more than 600,000 teachers and members of education, said there are too many ongoing challenges for students and educators related to the pandemic.
“We’re just asking that a state standardized assessment is not the best way to assess a year that is so remarkable in so many ways and we don’t believe the actual information you would receive from these tests would be valid at all,” replied DiBrango.
Paterson said the assessments won’t mean a big loss, only fewer comparisons.
“We won’t be able to compare Buffalo to Kenmore to Sweet Home to Colorado, perhaps, but I’m not worried about that. I want to know A to Z what a student, an individual student has learned or not learned,” Paterson remarked.
Both Bauer-Walker and Paterson pointed out there should be a check on students social, emotional, mental as well as academic progress.
Paterson noted remote learning has created a lot of lost time children would normal gain in a classroom. However, Paterson said children “don’t stop developing” and believes most children will be resilient enough to make up for the lost in-person learning.
NYSED will be collecting public comments through February 5. It will then present a summary of those comments to the Board of Regents.
NYSED said if the waivers are approved by the U.S. Department of Education, then it will "propose to the Board of Regents that it adopt such amendments to Commissioner’s Regulations to implement the waivers."