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Excessive Testing Taking Its Toll?

At the July 18 meeting of the Herricks Board of Education, the school district addressed a recent response by the State Education Department (SED) in regards to a recent hot-button topic that has many parents, students, and teachers alike up in arms—the rapid and stressful increase in state assessment testing.

 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Bierwirth recently received an email from Assistant SED Commissioner Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer, addressing the concerns of both parents and school districts in New York regarding the great deal of stress that many students have been put under as a result of what many have referred to “excessive state testing.” 

 

Many parents and school administrators argue these rob children of valuable classroom learning time in favor of multiple standardized assessment exams designed to gauge teacher performance, and

Rafal-Baer’s email acknowledged the difficulties that many students have been undergoing since the testing was implemented last year. 

 

“The department recognizes that during the first year of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), a variety of pressures have resulted in students being tested more than needed or in test preparation that crowds out quality instruction,” she said. “Numerous stakeholders, including—and most importantly —families and students, have raised concerns as a result of these local decisions.”

 

Rafal-Baer said there is a certain amount of state assessment testing that is required by federal law, but that school districts were being allowed leeway in exactly how much testing they implement—including the ability to drop other existing assessment procedures such as AimsWEB and NorthWest Evaluation Association (NWEA), provided they meet minimum testing levels otherwise. 

 

“As you know, the department has consistently communicated that the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making at the classroom, school, and district/BOCES level,” she said. “Teaching, not testing, is the core of the regents reform agenda.”

 

However, Bierwirth, after reviewing state suggestions to lower the testing burden on students, stated that the SED’s plans simply weren’t in the best interests of the children under his watch.

 

“SED does not understand our plan,” he said. “Herricks, along with other districts, has led the way in developing APPR plans which maximized the use of group metrics across as many areas as possible.

SED suggests that we reduce testing by dropping AimsWEB and NWEA and use only NYS assessments. We use AimsWEB and NWEA for instructional purposes. We would happily recommend dropping

NYS assessments as they serve little or no instructional value in Herricks.”

 

Bierwirth refuted what he called the SED’s “thinly-veiled attempt” to shift the blame from the state themselves to New York school districts in regards the increase in assessment testing.

 

 “Suggesting that none of the over-testing is SED’s responsibility is disingenuous at best,” he said. “If ‘teaching, not testing’ is the core of their agenda, why are grades 3-8 tests so incredibly long and why is New York measuring what students learn in a grade level only two-thirds of the way through the school year? Accountability and testing take precedence all too often over standards, professional development and instruction.” 

 

Bierwirth also noted that Herricks has dropped all remaining stand-alone pre-tests after the first year of APPR.

 

The next meeting of the Herricks Board of Education will be held on Thursday, Aug. 14.