January 5, 2015
Mr. Kenneth Wagner, Deputy Commissioner
Office of Curriculum, Assessment and Educational Technology
New York State Education Department
EBA Room 875, 89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
Dear Deputy Commissioner Wagner:
Please accept this letter as the New York State School Boards Association’s (NYSSBA) formal submission of comments in opposition to the proposed rulemaking entitled “Field Tests for State Assessments, Alternate Assessments and Regents Examinations” published in the New York State Register dated December 3, 2014. Such proposed rulemaking would amend sections 100.2, 100.3, and 100.4 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education to require that schools that administer State assessments administer those related field tests as may be prescribed by the Commissioner.
Although NYSSBA has long advocated for the State to fully fund the state assessment program, it opposes stand-alone field tests based on concerns expressed by its members and the parents of the children they serve. Stand-alone field tests increase the amount of time spent on standardized tests in the classroom which negatively affects the ability of educators and local policy makers to ensure appropriate time is spent on classroom instruction. While NYSSBA recognizes that required standardized tests need to be validated, it believes such validation should not be dependent upon stand-alone field tests. Instead such validation should be accomplished by the insertion of sample questions in existing tests and by producing more versions of the tests. In this way, each test itself would not be inordinately lengthy, which has also been a subject of great debate in our State.
In addition, NYSSBA takes exception to the characterization that the proposed amendment “does not impose any additional compliance requirements or costs beyond those inherent under applicable State and federal law.” There has been a long history of field testing in the state. However, school
district participation in field testing has not been mandated through law or regulation. Moreover, issues surrounding such participation are not new. Nonetheless, imposing mandatory participation through regulation appears to have been considered before but was rejected (see, New Sampling Method for Pretesting and Field Testing of Regents Examinations Memorandum from David Abrams to the field dated March 22, 2004 at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/hs/archive/damatrix.pdf).
Furthermore, NYSSBA believes that mandatory stand-alone field testing is inconsistent with Ch. 56, Part AA, Subpart F of the Laws of 2014, in which the Legislature specifically required that the Commissioner “provide guidance and advice to every school district and board of cooperative educational services to reduce and eliminate traditional standardized tests that are not required under state or federal law.” Stand-alone field tests are not mandated by either state or federal law. Therefore, instead of reducing or eliminating standardized testing, the proposed rulemaking actually increases mandated standardized testing for students. The regulatory impact statement accompanying the proposed rulemaking specifically states that there are alternatives to what has been proposed further demonstrating that stand alone field tests are not required under current state or federal law. Rather, they have been the consequence of “budget constraints” imposed on the State Education Department.
Finally, notably absent from the regulatory impact statement is what this new mandate means for the students in New York State. Our members have been receiving considerable feedback from parents regarding their increasingly negative attitude toward standardized testing. While that perception might seem uninformed, it colors parents’ confidence in public education. We are not looking for “feel good” solutions, but the impact on students should be at the forefront of any discussion on this topic.
If you have any questions related to this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Timothy G. Kremer