Testing Transparency Report
The message below is from a 6/15/14 memo to Ulster BOCES District Superintendent from Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer, Assistant Commissioner of New York State Education Department, regarding Assessment Administration in Conjunction with Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPRs)
Assessment Administration in Conjunction with Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPRs)
The Department recognizes that during the first year of full implementation of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), a variety of pressures at the state and local level may have resulted in students in some districts and BOCES being tested more than needed or in rote standardized test preparation that crowds out quality instruction.
Numerous stakeholders, including – and most importantly – families and students, have raised concerns as a result of these local decisions. The State has not created any additional tests as part of the implementation of the Common Core. All required state tests other than two high school social studies Regents exams – including all grades 3-8 assessments and high school exams in English, math, and science – are required by federal law. On February 11, 2014, the Board of Regents adopted emergency regulations to address the concerns raised by stakeholders and to adjust and improve the implementation of the Common Core standards and teacher/principal evaluation. The approved regulatory amendments to the APPR system are intended to help districts and BOCES reduce local testing and ensure that the amount of testing is the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making. At its March 2014 meeting, the Board of Regents made a series of technical amendments to the regulations to clarify the requirements for districts and BOCES that opt to use an assessment that is not a traditional standardized assessment for grades K-2 for APPR purposes. The Department has developed a webpage with multiple resources in order to help districts and BOCES successfully navigate the regulatory amendments and efficiently access relevant material.
Based on the concerns conveyed to the Commissioner surrounding the use of assessments, and in accordance with Section 1 of Subpart F of Chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, the Commissioner has directed the Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness to review your APPR plan to identify opportunities for you to act locally to ensure that your district is using the minimum assessments necessary to inform effective decision making, consistent with your instructional vision. As you are now in the second full year of APPR implementation, the Department encourages you to use this letter to help review your currently approved APPR plan to identify modifications that would be approvable by the Department and result in less testing for your students. As you know, the Department has consistently communicated that the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making at the classroom, school, and district/BOCES level.
The Department has developed guidance and technical support materials regarding the role of assessments within the APPR system. These materials include methods to eliminate, where consistent with the district’s or BOCES’ instructional vision, the use of pre-tests and other locally-adopted standardized tests. In lieu of pre-tests, districts and BOCES can use past performance trends, historical data and/or prior-year test results to establish targets for determining student learning growth. Additionally, locally-adopted standardized tests can be replaced with state assessments, school-wide growth measures, or performance-based assessments.
Education Law §3012-c provides you with design flexibility. The Department encourages you and your local bargaining units to use the available resources to ensure that thoughtful conversation occurs, and strategic decisions are made, regarding the use of student assessments. Teaching, not testing, is the core of our work.
There are an assortment of ways in which a district or BOCES can design a meaningful and authentic assessment program that provides information to drive instructional decisions, ultimately leading to an increase in students' knowledge and skills. By taking the time to re-review your local assessment practices, you can engage in collaborative conversations with your local stakeholders about ways in which you might choose to use data and/or evidence more effectively and efficiently to ensure that all local tests help inform instruction and improve student learning, rather than needlessly add to the number of assessments administered within your district.
To help further facilitate these conversations on the local level, the Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness has reviewed your APPR plan and determined that there are a number of ways in which, through a material change request, you could make thoughtful adjustments consistent with your district’s instructional vision to your currently approved APPR plan to reduce and/or refine assessments used, subject to collective bargaining decisions.
Teaching, not testing, is the core of the Regents Reform Agenda.