NY’s education chief seeks changes, including shorter state test
By Pauline Liu
Posted Oct. 19, 2015 at 7:11 PM
NEW YORK CITY – Get ready for shorter state tests and more teacher involvement in the test review process.
Those are some of the changes that State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia called for Monday as she spoke before a gathering of several hundred people at the State School Board Association’s annual convention in New York City.
“Those are things that I’ve felt are problematic,” said Elia. She is looking for local help. She’s asking school districts to recommend teachers who would be interested in reviewing the test questions.
The length of the tests and whether the questions are developmentally appropriate are among common complaints made by parents across the state. As a result, more than 200,000 students in grades 3-8 opted out of the controversial Common Core-based tests
when they were offered in April.
That’s about one-fifth of the kids who were scheduled to take the standardized exams in math and English.
According to Elia, the shorter tests will be offered next April, though she did not say how much shorter the tests will be. Since being hired in July, Elia said she has logged 10,000 miles traveling around the state.
Chester Superintendent Sean Michel, who was in the audience, said, “What we’ve heard is that the tests will probably be shortened by about 20 minutes. It’s a first step … but in dealing with anything involving the State Education Department,
the devil is in the details.”
The superintendent and school board members from Chester were among many mid-Hudson districts represented at the conference.
The complaints about testing and Common Core were also the focus of panel discussion. The Common Core curriculum is a set of academic standards advocated by the National Governors Association and adopted by 42 states. The Obama administration has backed it as well, and linked it to federal funding.
Monday’s session brought together Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and New York State United Teachers union president Karen Magee, who often have opposing views about public education.
Tisch told the group she didn’t think education policy should be part of the budget process or written into state law, which resulted in loud applause from the audience.
The group also discussed how parents have shown increasing distrust of the state education system.
“The erosion of confidence and trust is what’s allowed the opt-out movement to grow,” said Magee. “Turning this around is going to take some dramatic change,” said Richard Longhurst, executive administrator of the State Parent Teacher Association.
Greenwood Lake Superintendent Christine Ackerman had a question for Tisch.
“We follow the Common Core curriculum, but if we’re going to adjust those standards, they won’t be “common” anymore, and aren’t we going back to a state-based system ?” Ackerman asked.