NYS Testing FAQs
Dear Lakeland Families,
In the past few years, we have come a long way in developing curriculum and relaxing the testing atmosphere. Our curriculum is now embedded with solid foundational skills that are built upon each year. Assessments as well had significant changes and no longer create the kind of anxiety experienced in earlier years.
Below are New York State Testing Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. We hope you will take the time to read through the FAQs.
The results of these assessments help us pinpoint our students' strengths and weaknesses which assist us to better prepare them as they move forward in school.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
George Stone, Ed.D., Superintendent
Will these scores be part of my child's permanent record?
No. New state law now forbids test results to be included in a student’s permanent record. The results will only be released if requested by a parent, such as when a student transfers to another district.
Do these tests force teachers to “teach to the test”?
Teachers do not “teach to the test.” New assessment questions require the application of higher-level thinking strategies to the material provided in the questions. Teachers may utilize similar strategies in modules they teach, but they cannot teach to specific questions. Teaching is now more about applying thinking strategies to understand curriculum.
Do the test questions include items the students haven't yet learned?
Since we do not see the tests in advance, it is impossible to know for sure. Each year, however, as teachers become more comfortable with the new curriculum, they are covering much more material. In addition, this year we will have access to approximately 75% of the test questions, so teachers will be able to align curriculum even further. Our instructional coaches note that the state assessment questions look very similar to the assessment questions being assigned in our classrooms every day.
Is the new curriculum going away soon, and if so why should my child bother taking the test?
We do not agree that curriculum we now use will go away very soon. As teachers become more familiar with the curriculum and receive additional training and materials, confidence continues to rise. Anxiety from students, parents, and teachers has significantly decreased over the years as more students build on the skills each year. In addition, we have seen significant increases in the reading and math levels of our youngest students indicating that over the long run, they will be better prepared for college and careers.
What exactly does the school and Administration do (if anything) with these test score results?
The state does not tie these test results to teacher, administrator, and school evaluations. Our teachers and administrators want test results in order to improve instruction for all students. By analyzing areas of strengths and weaknesses both for individual students and entire classes, time on specific objectives and standards can be better managed. By seeing which classes have the highest results, best practices can be shared with other classrooms to maximize learning for all. This year, we will have access to 75% of the test questions, which will also increase our ability to target specific skills in their order of importance.
How do teachers across the state feel about the curriculum and assessments?
Teachers through time have had different opinions on almost all areas of curriculum and instruction. When Lakeland introduced instructional strategies we wanted to see in every classroom, many teachers were uncomfortable with the changes. Almost all teachers now support these strategies and in classrooms where they are most often used are seeing some of our highest achievement results. New curriculum standards are not that different from our previous standards. The higher level thinking strategies used to deliver the standards seem to be the biggest area of change.
Do these tests create anxiety and make students nervous about scoring well on the assessments?
The District is actively taking on the issue of “test anxiety.” Every day students are working on the same types of questions in their classrooms that they will have to answer on state tests. There is no need for teachers to discuss the tests or in any way pressure students prior to taking these tests. The fact is students cannot “study” for these tests. We are actively communicating this message across the district. Test days will be just other “school days” with a few more assessments than the average day.
Are teachers heavily evaluated based on test results and is this fair?
Teachers are evaluated on their day to day classroom performance. Very very high percentages of our teachers are rated effective and highly effective so testing is not impacting their evaluations.
Should elementary school students have to take standardized, high stakes tests?
Elementary students have been taking standardized tests for many years in order to measure their progress. They are in fact answering these very same types of questions in their classrooms every day. In some cases, our teachers and instructional coaches have noted, the questions are almost exactly the same questions that appear on the tests. We use the assessments to see how well our students are performing and how they compare to students in other schools and districts.
Is it true that “special” classes (art, music, physical education and library), sports and other programming have been cut back to make more time for test prep?
This is simply not true. Lakeland is firmly committed to the arts, athletics and extra-curricular activities as well as academics. We continue to offer a full range of specials and we will continue to do so. Students who qualify for academic intervention or special education services may receive additional intensive time in core subjects, but no programs in Lakeland have been cut back due to these tests.
Are these exams fair for students with learning or language challenges?
We always support a more “level playing field.” If students cannot read a test or have not been exposed to certain testing levels or areas of instruction it is unfair to test them under the same set of rules and circumstances. Many of these students are also taking on higher level tasks in their classrooms and are rising to the challenge by demonstrating success on the assessments. We also support the New York State Waiver Request to the Federal Government to modify the testing conditions for these students.
AIS services are based on my child’s score on the test. If they don’t have a score, can they still be placed in AIS?
A number of protocols are being used to determine AIS services. Aside from the state test, we utilize regular monitoring of student growth. Lack of appropriate progress or growth can lead to AIS services, as well as a recommendation by building administration.
If my child does not take the test, what is the “score” they receive?
Students who do not take the test are recorded as “Not tested.”