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State schools exempt from requiring multiple math testing

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New York state, in an effort to alleviate unnecessary testing, has approved a waiver for middle school students taking Regents level math courses from taking the mandated state test for that grade level.

The “double testing elimination” is scheduled to go into effect this spring. If every state school takes advantage of the waiver, about 60,000 students could opt out of taking both algebra 1 Regents exams and the state assessments.

The double testing elimination is possible thanks to U.S. Department of Education approval of the state’s request for a waiver from the provisions of federal law that requires students who take Regents exams in mathematics when they are in seventh or eighth grade also to take the state mathematics assessment. Seventh- and eighth-graders who are receiving instruction in algebra 1 and who take the accompanying Regents exam also are required to take the state Common Core mathematics test for their grade level. School districts now will be allowed to administer only the Regents examination in algebra 1 to these students. This provision also applies to students in grades seven and eight who receive instruction in geometry and who take the Regents exam in that subject.

At Carthage Central School, about 45 of the 256 eighth-graders took both the state math course and the advanced Regents algebra 1 course last year. Superintendent Peter J. Turner said that although that isn’t a significant portion of the student population, any reduction in mandated testing is “a good thing.”

“We’re inundating students with testing,” Watertown City School District Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said. “Students taking the Regents exam are studying math on a higher level. It seems redundant and unnecessary to have them take both tests.”

The waiver is optional for school districts, state Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said.

Indian River Central School Superintendent James Kettrick said that district will not eliminate the double testing so students can take the higher score for their transcripts.

“We’re going to have them take both so they can be exposed to both,” Mr. Kettrick said. “No one likes tests, but everyone likes the option to have two tests you can take the higher score from.”

The decision was approved Thursday. In a news release, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said testing is an important part of the instruction and assessment of academic progress.

“But we have repeatedly said that the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making. Our successful waiver request is an example of New York’s commitment to smarter, leaner testing,” Mr. King said.

Along with two high school history Regents exams, all required state tests — including all grades three through eight assessments; secondary-level exams in English, math and science; alternative assessments for students with disabilities, and annual assessments for English language learners — are required by federal law. The state has not created any additional tests as part of Common Core implementation, and the Education Department is developing Teaching is the Core grants to encourage the reduction or elimination of locally selected pretests and locally bargained and selected achievement measures.

The news release said the state Education Department reduced the number of questions and testing time on the federally required assessments for grades three through eight, and the state budget request will include funding to eliminate multiple-choice, stand-alone field tests. The state also is asking the U.S. Department of Education for flexibility to use for accountability purposes native language arts tests for Spanish-speaking English-language learners who recently arrived in the United States, and permission to allow testing at instructional level rather than chronological age for students with significant cognitive disabilities not eligible for the state alternate assessment.

Mr. Burman said it was unclear whether the double testing elimination could save the state money in the long run.

Additional information about New York’s approved ESEA Flexibility Waiver, including frequently asked questions, can be found at: http://wdt.me/pKZFBZ.

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