New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza encouraged public school parents on Thursday to opt their children out of state exams this year in light of the federal government’s recent decision to continue administering standardized tests during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We know that children have fallen behind that is the genesis that undergirds our COVID plan, so we know that we don’t have to give a test for that,” said Carranza during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily pandemic press conference. “So as an educator, I would say to parents, there is an opt-out and if there is ever a time for parents to consider whether that opt-out makes sense for you this is the time.”
“We do not want to impose additional traumas on students that have already been traumatized and then say that we have to test students that are in person and not students that are in remote and it just makes no sense in a pandemic to apply the rules of the past,” Carranza added.
Under federal law, New York state is required to give annual standardized tests to students in the third through eighth grades in math and English Language Arts and high schoolers must pass five Regents exams in order to receive a diploma. Last year, the New York State Education Department canceled high stake tests due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and sought to do so again this year.
In January, NYSED sought two waivers to forgo administering federal exams for elementary, middle, and high school students throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and exempt schools from being responsible for test results.
To the disappointment of state education officials, the United States Department of Education announced on Monday states will still be required to give federally mandated standardized tests this year but will have the option to administer shortened or remote tests or lengthen examination windows.
Along with offering exam flexibilities, federal officials are encouraging states to apply for waivers for accountability requirements this spring. In response to the Biden administration’s decision, the New York State Education Department on Tuesday said it would weigh its options and propose a series of changes to state testing requirements including easing regent exam graduation requirements and scrapping some regents exams entirely at next month’s Board of Regents meeting.
The Biden administration’s decision has caused concern among many public school parents and educators who worry that there is no way to fairly administer standardized tests given the challenges presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During a Panel or Educational Policy meeting Wednesday evening, Carranza echoed these concerns and stating that he and New York state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa would continue to advocate for a “common-sense policy” on standardized testing this year.
“I do not believe that it is appropriate to administer standardized tests to students that have had interrupted learning, students that have had to rely on devices and remote curriculum and haven’t received them for months until we were able to purchase them. I don’t think its appropriate to administer standardized summative tests to students who have lost family members, who have lost friends, who have seen their parents lose jobs, who have seen people get sick, who have not been able to go to school with their peers,” Carranza told PEP members. “ I have made my voice very clear in this regard and I can also tell you that Commissioner Rosa of the New York State Education Department, Chancellor Lester Young of the Board of Regents also share this perspective. We do not believe in it. We will not do it.”
Summative tests, meaning tests that evaluate how much a student has learned throughout an entire course, will not be accurate this year, Carranza argues. Instead, educators should be focused on formative assessments which test a student’s knowledge throughout a course which makes it easier for teachers to find and address learning gaps.
During the late-night meeting, Carranza also promised that the New York City Department of Education would notify parents of their right to opt-out their children from participating in federally required exams this year although it remains unclear when the department will do so.