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NCLB Outrages

State Tests Extended to About Three Hours

Ohanian Comment:

"We need to measure student performance and achievement to help guide instruction."
--John B. King Jr., New York education commissioner

New York teachers should call his bluff. Demand that the produce one teacher whose classroom performance was informed by one of these tests.

Teachers in every state should call this bluff.

Three cheers for the superintendent who dares to utter the words "developmentally appropriate."

By Winnie Hu

New York State math and language arts tests for elementary and middle school students will each be lengthened to about three hours beginning this April.

The state's education commissioner, John B. King Jr., announced the testing times in a memorandum sent Monday to superintendents and principals across New York. The tests will grow by up to 70 minutes for third-grade math, and by up to 25 minutes for third-grade language arts.

The change will mean that math testing, which was previously held over two days, will be extended to a third day -- as language arts tests are set up now. The annual high-stakes tests, given to students in grades three through eight, are used to help determine a school district's overall standing and this school year will factor into teacher evaluations.

Dr. King said the move to longer testing times was part of the state's efforts to fine-tune tests of student performance. The tests will, for the first time in 2012, include questions that will not count toward a student's score, but will be used to develop future tests.

"We've balanced the need for better, more detailed information about student learning with our concern for minimizing student stress," Dr. King said in a statement. "We need to measure student performance and achievement to help guide instruction."

The issue of testing times came to a head last month when David Abrams, the stateΓΆ€™s director of educational testing, was forced to resign after sending out an unauthorized memo suggesting that reading tests would grow to more than four hours. (Third graders had taken a 150-minute test in language arts and a 100-minute test in math.)

At three hours, New York's tests will still be shorter than those given in many other states, where they range from two and a half to four and a half hours. Nevertheless, the increase in testing times drew sharp criticism Monday from many school administrators, teachers and parents.

"It's pretty clear right now the last thing we need is more testing," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "Test prep is one of the biggest dangers that our kids face in schools right now. Preparing kids to take standardized tests does not lead to real learning."

Henry Grishman, superintendent of the Jericho schools on Long Island, said he was concerned about adding to the stress level of his youngest students. And, he added, his district already loses nearly two weeks of instructional time to state testing, once makeup exams and accommodations for special-education students are factored in.

"We've gotten into a mind-set of overtesting our students," he said. "We're giving kids a high-stakes test above and beyond what is age and developmentally appropriate."

— Winnie Hu
New York Times


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