Bayport Blue-Point School District holds one of the highest opt-out (or refusal, according to New York State) percentages for the third- to eighth-grade assessment tests on Long Island. As 75 percent …
Bayport Blue-Point School District holds one of the highest opt-out (or refusal, according to New York State) percentages for the third- to eighth-grade assessment tests on Long Island. As 75 percent of students does not sit for the math and ELA exams, changes to the assessment itself, its weight in grade promotion, and utilization in teacher evaluation might change some parents’ decisions for the upcoming tests.
Dr. Theodore Fulton, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, along with support from Academy Street Elementary principal Kerry Vann, gave a presentation, “New York State Grades 3-8 Assessment Information Night,” on Tuesday, March 3, where they outlined the implications of low turnout for test participation and receiving federal funds through the state’s discretion. This is what was discussed earlier this week:
What is ESSA and how does that affect third- to eighth-grade assessment?
Schools throughout the country had previously received federal aid (last year New York state received $1.6 billion) through the No Child Left Behind initiative enacted in 2001. The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015, sought to address the issues with No Child Left Behind and shift authority of assessments to the state.
As a result, in order to receive the federal funding from ESSA, whose contribution is sizeable to Bayport-Blue Point—especially since there was a “significant amount lost in the previous Title I and Title II funding due to the a different wealth ratio and census formula that deemed the district [Bayport-Blue Point] not in financial or economic need,” according to Fulton—schools must meet certain parameters to qualify, namely good standing with assessments and progress in the participation and scores of the tests developed and mandated by New York State.
What happens if students continue to opt-out of taking the mandated assessment tests?
The other side is, should a school fail to “improve” in two consecutive years in three criteria: failure to meet the 95 percent test participation requirement, improving its participation rate, and not performing at Level 3,4 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index, it will be subject to a Comprehensive Support Improvement by the state. The CSI scenario “is a massive undertaking,” Fulton said.
The risk is that historically low- test participation in BBP (75 percent opted out last year and 74 percent opted out in 2017-2018) marks the district as a “failure” in the first four criteria. Even with higher test scores, the last criterion, performing at a Level 3, 4, is skewed to the weighted average, where a school’s score is divided by the total number of students who could have taken the test, not the number who actually did undergo the exam.
Have the curricula issues (i.e. Common Core) plaguing the assessment exams been addressed?
Many parents have opted out of the assessment exams because of the Common Core component that the tests are based on. The state has said it has had classroom practitioners (i.e. teachers) write and select exam questions, and improved on content and skill level to be more appropriate and helpful to students.
This year’s exam is still based on Common Core principles, but for the 2020-2021 school year, the exam will be based on Next Generation. “There are a lot of similarities in the two, and Next Generation is an extension of Common Core,” added Fulton.
How do the scores affect teachers and students?
“This is the first year we will see the decoupling of assessment test scores and teacher performance evaluations,” said Fulton.
In addition, the decision to move students up to the next grade will factor in, but not be solely based on assessment scores.
As the state plans to have assessment reports on or around June 1, it is thought they will be ready in time to address weak points in a student’s performance in preparation of the next school year.
Is the format of the test any different?
The state has reduced the number of testing sessions from three sessions per subject to two. Once again, the 2020 tests will be untimed, with teachers monitoring students (especially at the third- and fourth-grade level) who might become over-focused or inattentive with such a long block of testing. Instead of allowing students to leave early upon completion, BBP will move children who need additional time to relieve the stress of seeing others finish before them.
Another change is that the state has expressed it would like to go fully computer-based on all assessments, while the sixth graders in BBP have taken the assessments on their Chromebooks.
“They [sixth graders] have them every day, but younger students might not have the keyboarding skills, especially for ELA,” said Vann, who assured parents that paper format would always be available.
At the closing of the meeting, many attendees stayed to ask questions, with a good number being educators themselves who had seen the impact of testing and/or lack of participation in other districts.
“We respect your rights as a parent to choose. Our goal is to make your children life-long learners,” said Fulton.
Correction 3/11/20: Comments by Dr. Timothy Fulton were fixed for accuracy.