Students Practice Field Tests, Residents Pay

In May, schools are administering local assessments that, like the standardized state tests, are used to evaluate the teachers (APPR). In June, between the 1st and 10th, selected schools are assigned to administer “field tests.” I described the nature of field tests in two posts (here and here). Briefly, these tests are collected, not graded, never returned. They help Pearson, test developer, prepare future tests. The following neighborhood schools were assigned to administer the field tests in spring of 2015:

  • Davison 3rd grade, ELA
  • Grace 4th grade, ELA
  • OLL 6th grade, math
  • OLP 4th grade, math

The NYSED assigns half of the NY schools for the fall and the other half for the spring field testing. Some school districts have been shipping the test materials back unopened, as these tests are not mandatory. The fact of voluntary participation was clear from the very beginning (2010) to the NYSED and Pearson, the winner of the request for the proposal RFP #10-021.* In the Q&A correspondence (pdf) the NYSED was asked, if the stand-alone field tests would be mandatory. “Selected schools are required, but not mandated,” was the answer. (page 11, item 42.) In another part of the RFP it reads the test vendor has to:

“Notify the selected schools in writing of the field tests. The solicitation by the vendor must be explicit as to the grade levels and subject for which the school is asked to participate and must be approved by NYSED. Provide all schools that respond affirmatively to the field test solicitation with the appropriate quantities of field test materials…” (emphasis mine)

proposal to make Field Tests mandatoryIn November, 2014, trying to prevent a large number of refusals, the NYSED proposed the Board of Regents make the field tests mandatory. (NYS Education Department’s proposal [enlarge picture] to mandate stand-alone field tests located in the NYS Register dated December 3, 2014 I.D. No. EDU-48-14-00008-P).

paragraph from Regents Dec. 8 meetingThe period from Dec. 3, 2014 to Jan. 15, 2015 was set for public comments on the issue. Parents and school districts voiced their opinion. I suggested the Malverne BOE to join other districts and send a letter. The Regents’ meeting summary dated December 8, 2014 states they anticipated picking up on the issue again at their February meeting. [enlarge picture]

boe field test resolutionThe Malverne BOE mentioned they would write a resolution regarding field tests at their February session in public. To my surprise, the text [enlarge picture] of the letter has been incorporated in the February meeting. (Although the minutes were approved, they still are stamped DRAFT). The letter was not read once. Even bigger surprise was that the letter implied the Regents already have made the decision to make tests mandatory:

“WHEREAS, the New York State Board of Regents recently adopted a proposal from the New York State Education Department to make the administration of these “field tests” mandatory, …”

Yet, the Regents met on Feb. 9 and 10, didn’t touch the topic, and haven’t touched it to this day. I asked the school board, if they received a memo informing districts that Regents have made field tests mandatory. I was told that the letter was meant “preemptively.” Based on the documentation provided by the NYSED, the following BOE’s statement in the letter is also incorrect:

“WHEREAS, as a result thereof, all public school districts in New York State will be required to administer additional “field tests” …”

The RFP and Q&A stated that schools were required. The requirement would not be the result of Regents’ decision.

The Malverne BOE didn’t get the facts straight. Mistakes happen. The most important fact is that the field tests continue to be voluntary, even in case the schools “responded affirmatively to the field test solicitation.”

The troublesome part of the letter writing experience is that the school board wrote it by themselves for themselves. They function in isolation, as they didn’t communicate their thought process, didn’t explain the field tests. They didn’t educate parents on the fact that it’s at the superintendent’s discretion to let students “practice” tests, as governor Cuomo said, or have them learn instead.

In my message to Dr. Hunderfund, I suggested an informational meeting to be organized at Davison school. There is no reason to “practice” working for a corporation and pay for it at the same time. If you have contact to the other schools mentioned above, please contact their school administrators or parents of the affected classes.

Update 8/30/2015:

*The NYSED removed the RFP #10-021 from its website, but still listed it on its “News” page dated 6/10/10.

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