Letter from Superintendent on State Testing
CHATHAM CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
50 WOODBRIDGE AVENUE
CHATHAM, NY 12037
OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT
March 13, 2017
Dear parent or guardian,
We are once again approaching the time for New York State’s grade 3 through 8 assessments in English Language Arts (March 27-30) and Math (May 2-4). I understand and respect that some parents and guardians have had concerns about this testing in past years; however, much about the state testing program has changed. I am writing to explain these changes, as well as Chatham’s approach to the state testing and how we use the results, so that you have accurate and current information to use in making educational decisions about your child.
In response to parent and educator concerns, New York State made a number of changes to testing last year. The changes include:
- Fewer test questions: Tests are shorter with fewer questions in ELA and Math.
- Untimed tests: Students have as much time as they need to finish assessments at their own pace.
- More teacher involvement: The state has increased the number of teachers who create and review assessments. All questions have been evaluated by teachers to ensure that they are age appropriate and a fair and accurate measure of the standards.
- Results not tied to evaluations: Test results are not being used to evaluate teachers or principals. A moratorium is in place until 2019 while the state develops a new evaluation system.
Here in Chatham we saw the positive impact of these changes on the students who took the assessments last spring. They experienced much less frustration, and performance improved across the District. This year, NY has also adjusted accommodations for Students with Disabilities; this year for the first time, the ELA assessment may be read aloud to certain students who have that accommodation on their IEP’s.
We use the results from NYS assessments for two important purposes. One is to help identify students who may need extra help. The SAT, ACT, and Regents exams required for high school graduation are all based on the Common Core, so we want to ensure that students get support and intervention as soon in their school career as possible. We also use information from the assessments to measure our program. For example, some of our teachers used information from last year’s tests to strengthen their approach to teaching fractions.
We do NOT use the assessment results as a single measure of student or teacher effectiveness. We always include multiple ways of measuring what is happening in our schools. That being said, these tests are our only way to compare our academic progress to that of other school districts, and we use this process to find ways to better help our students.
Unfortunately, when fewer students take the exams we are left with an incomplete picture of how our students are learning. This limits our ability to address issues that would improve how we educate our students. This is a key reason why I encourage test participation here in Chatham and why educational groups like the National PTA urge parents to allow students to take these assessments.
We also work very hard to help students see the assessments as just another school activity and to counteract any anxiety some of them may feel. We avoid “teaching to the test” as much as possible and try to build any preparation into our regular instruction.
Because of the important information the state assessments provide us, I respectfully urge you to have your children participate in the testing this spring. However, if you have a specific concern about your child, or if you have a sincere philosophical objection to the assessments, and you write a letter to your child’s principal explaining this, we will respect your wishes. Please note that we must receive this information in writing in advance of the test dates. Students whose parents have written a letter will do comparable school work in a different setting.
I am very proud of the professionalism and child-centered focus demonstrated by our teachers and principals. By working together as parents and educators, we can ensure that Chatham students receive the education they deserve.
Cheryl A. Nuciforo