Can your third-grader sit for 70 minutes quietly and take a test?
New York State math and language arts (ELA) tests for elementary and middle school students will each be lengthened to about three hours beginning this April, according to a NY Times article.
In a December memo from the NYS Education Department, all superintendents and principals were informed of the changes:
The tests will increase:
- up to 70 minutes for third-grade math
- up to 25 minutes for third-grade ELA
- Math testing will be extended to a third day from two days.
Parents expressed their concerns at Monday’s Elementary PTA meeting.
“I think the problem with third and fourth graders is their attention span is not there,” said PTA Recording Secretary and Mother Jeanine Portelle.
“I’m not against testing … but an appropriate length for a test is something I’d be (in favor of),” said Father and Teacher Eric Lanks.
“The testing starts the Tuesday they come back from Spring Break,” said Highview Principal Barbara Auriemma.
Here’s the breakdown on the test dates and lengths according to the NYS Education Department:
Grades 3–8 ELA and Math tests will be composed of three books per grade and will be administered over three consecutive days.
- Tuesday, April 17: ELA Book 1 in two consecutive parts with a short break in between
- Wednesday, April 18: ELA Book 2
- Thursday, April 19: ELA Book 3
- Wednesday, April 25: Mathematics Book 1
- Thursday, April 26: Mathematics Book 2
- Friday, April 27: Mathematics Book 3
ELAGrade Book Estimated Time for Completion Day Administered 3 1 70 1 2 60 2 3 46 3 Total Estimated Time 175 4 1 70 1 2 60 2 3 45 3 Total Estimated Time 175
MathGrade Book Estimated Time for Completion Day Administered 3 1 60 1 2 60 2 3 50 3 Total Estimated Time 170 4 1 60 1 2 60 2 3 60 3 Total Estimated Time 180
“It’s not really fair to a third grader and not really to a fourth grader either,” said Portelle
“I’m a teacher at the middle school so I was privy to the state testing when it came out that they changed the testing. I’ve been researching it a little bit. I really don’t think the length of the test … that they proposed this year … is appropriate for the third and fourth grades,” said Lanks, who has children younger than third grade, but knows his kids will take this test in the upcoming years. “It’s definitely not anything that the teachers or administration had to with. It’s coming from the State Education Department. To me it’s outrageous that they’re expecting a third-grader to sit for (that extended amount of time). I just don’t see how anyone who has any understanding of child development can think that’s appropriate.”
Highview Elementary Teacher Andrea Smith said that students currently sit for a long period of time for school testing.
“(For tests) we do give the full period. Some students take the whole 45 minutes. Some students take longer and we give them extended time,” said Smith. “One of the new things this year is that they are giving the kids a break. Within that time period on day one, they get a break between part 1 and part 2. It’s not that they’re sitting for the entire 70 minutes. They’ll be able to get up and stretch.”
“But 45 to 70 is a big jump,” said Portelle.
“Also the importance of the test … I think it’s not just stamina, but stress,” said PTA Member and Mother Michelle Mazzaro. “It’s the first time they have to sit and be tested for a long period of time. They’re 8- and 9-years-old. They know it’s that important and that makes it stressful.”
“It’s a long period of time to ask a child to sit and not talk or go to the bathroom,” added Mazzaro “Things happen a lot earlier now, it seems.”
Why The Change
“This year, they’re embedding those questions into the test so it’s elongated the test,” said Auriemma. “Normally, before they administer certain questions, they do field testing. In past years, selected schools in the state were asked to field test. Last year, all schools were field testing, but it wasn’t during the exam itself. It was the next day, the next week.”
“That’s not the only reason,” continued Auriemma. “(The NYS Ed Dept.) felt they wanted more questions to determine the level of the students’ expertise. Both of those things increased the number of days for the test and the number of questions on the test. They haven’t really given us a lot of information on how they’re really changing the questions and the schema of the test this year other than the time.”
In the memo, it reads:
This year the state testing program is going to be more comprehensive because of the need to better determine student learning and to improve future assessments. To help accomplish those goals, the Department has made two significant changes to the 3-8 ELA and mathematics testing program.
First, we have increased the number of test questions to obtain the most accurate information possible about student achievement and to include field test questions upon which future tests will be built
Second, the Department has designed the testing times to allow students sufficient time to demonstrate what they have learned.
The memo is also attached as a PDF to this article.
“We do simulations here, very closely aligned (to the test),” said Auriemma. “We do a good job in Nanuet preparing our students, but we need (parents’) help.”
“That’s why I moved here. I moved up here 11 years ago because I heard about the school district (from the city),” said Portelle. “I cannot be happier about how (my child) is being taught and what she is learning.”
“Make sure that they’re well rested and relaxed coming back from spring break for the test,” said Auriemma.
“One of the other things I would like to talk about is stamina, building up their ability to sit with things for a long period of time,” said Miller Elementary Principal Betsy Smith. “If they’re doing a craft, baking with you or doing anything with you that’s non-electronic, something they’re doing other than reading, try to get them to do (that task) for an extended amount of time, ask them to sustain and hold on for a little longer.
“They watch TV and the commercials … then we ask them to sit down for 70 minutes and do an awful lot of reading, it’s very quiet and here’s your pencil. That’s not what their world is,” added Smith. “Same thing about writing, if they poop out on us—even though they have great ideas—the ability to stay with us long enough to get it all down is tricky.”
In the Future
One parent asked if this new testing format is only something that New York is doing.
“Not really, we are going closer and closer to a national curriculum,” said Auriemma. “This core curriculum … that’s more aligned to a national curriculum and eventually, there will be a national test. We won’t be taking state tests and will be taking national tests. That’s further down the line. They’ve been talking about it for years. They’ve been talking about (American) students not doing well on international tests. This isn’t going to go away.”
David Abrams, the state’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, according to the NY Times. (Third graders had taken a 150-minute test in language arts and a 100-minute test in math.)