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November 18, 2017

Parents' Frequently Asked Questions About New York's Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests

 

(A resource from the State Education Dept.)

 

1. Why do we need an annual statewide test?

• New York’s annual Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Tests are designed to measure the rigorous, college and career readiness learning standards that guide classroom instruction and focus on the critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills that students need in today’s world.
• For decades, New York students have been taking state tests. Since the higher learning standards were adopted in 2010, no additional state tests have been introduced to students.
• The federal government requires that students in grades 3-8 are tested once a year in ELA and math.
• The annual tests are only one of several measures used to understand whether your child is on track to succeed in the next grade.

2. What will I learn from my child’s score report?

• The results of the annual assessments give you information about your child’s academic progress and achievement. You will be able to see how your child performed compared to other students across the state.
• In addition to providing an overall scale score and performance level, both the ELA and math reports show how your child scored in specific skill and concept areas at each grade level. For example, the ELA report provides scores for both reading and writing; the math report gives scores for the key math categories for that grade level. This information helps your child’s teacher understand where your child is doing well or where he or she needs more support. It can also be used to help you support your child at home.

3. How can these test results be used to help my child improve?

• You can use your child’s results to guide a discussion with your child’s teacher(s) about additional supports or challenges that may be needed in class, as well as other ways to support learning at home.

4. Why is it important for my child to take these tests?

• These tests provide teachers with information that can be used to guide their instruction. Additionally, the results show teachers where additional support or more challenging material is needed. This helps teachers to understand how well students are progressing in the skills and concepts being taught in the classroom.
• Results from the annual grades 3-8 tests also help identify achievement gaps among different student populations. Without widespread participation in the tests, it is more difficult for school and district leaders to pinpoint these gaps and provide the support and necessary resources to the students who need it.

5. How much time do students spend on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests?

• Time spent taking these exams accounts for less than 1% of the total time a student spends in school throughout the year.
• The state has also capped the amount of class time spent on test prep activities. In New York public schools, the amount of time devoted to test preparation under standardized testing conditions for each grade must not exceed, in total, 2% of the minimum required annual instructional hours for the grade level. This ensures that class time is spent on classroom instruction and activities.

6. How will my child’s score be used?

• Scores will be used to tailor instruction to individual students and measure how well schools, districts, and the State are progressing with the higher learning standards.
• State law and Commissioner’s regulations prohibit school districts from making promotion or placement decisions based solely or primarily on student performance on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests.

7. What if my child did well on his or her report card, but not as well on the tests?

• The annual tests are only one of several measures that are used to gauge your child’s academic performance. Report card grades include multiple indicators of a student’s performance, such as participation, work habits, group projects, and homework—all of which are important in determining a child’s academic achievement but are not reflected in the annual test results. To learn more about your child’s academic achievement, talk with his or her teacher.

8. What types of questions are asked on the tests?

• The questions require students to apply their knowledge and explain their reasoning. Students spend time reading complex texts, writing well-reasoned responses, and solving real-world word problems, all of which are necessary skills to practice and master to succeed in college and careers.
• Test questions are available online at www.engageny.org/3-8.

9. How are teachers involved in the test development process?

• Each test question was developed specifically for New York students and included extensive feedback from numerous teachers from around the State.

10. What is being done to improve the testing program?

• A new testing company (Questar Assessment) has been selected to develop future Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. Double the number of New York State teachers will be involved in the development and review of these tests to ensure that they closely correspond with the activities in the classroom and new, more rigorous learning standards.
• The State is also working toward making the tests available on a computer-based platform, which will eventually make results available more quickly.
• In 2015, the State legislature provided additional funding to make improvements to the testing program. These include the public release of more test questions and eventually making test results available before the end of the school year.