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Letter: Students shouldn’t opt out of state’s redesigned tests

Students shouldn’t opt out of state’s redesigned tests

In April, third- through eighth-grade students across the state will take the New York State English language arts and mathematics tests. This year’s tests will look different than those from recent years.

The 2016 tests have fewer questions. They also have no time pressure, so students who need more time to show us what they know can have it. Every item on the tests has been reviewed by at least 22 state educators. We wanted to make sure the questions measure what is being taught in our classrooms.

Additionally, student performance on the 2016 tests will have no consequence on teacher and principal evaluations. For the next four years, no teachers or principals in New York State public schools will be penalized because of how their students did on these tests.

These steps are just a start, and our tests will continue to get better. Future tests will have even greater teacher involvement, and test results will be available earlier than ever before.

But opting out of the tests is not the answer. Tests are an essential part of the student experience. They help educators plan for the coming school year and develop individualized learning plans for students. The tests are the only objective measure we have to compare student progress between schools and districts. They also help us identify achievement gaps between different groups of students.

I know the need to correct our course is urgent, but we can’t get there overnight. I’m asking New Yorkers to trust in the adjustments we’ve made so far and the purposeful changes we’re going to make.

Our students are counting on us to give them every opportunity to succeed. The state tests are an important yardstick to measure how well we’re meeting that responsibility. Let’s all keep this in mind during test time.

MaryEllen Elia

State Education Commissioner

Participatory budgeting has turned into a mess

As a resident in the Masten District, I feel that this participatory budgeting process was pushed through without very much concern for the entire district. I attended the planning meetings in the fall, where some great ideas were offered.

The next thing we know, it’s time to vote. How can we decide on what to vote for without seeing these projects first? Voting was scheduled during a busy travel week with kids being out of school. Notification was done by handing out flyers on the first day of voting.

There was no vetting process brought to the neighborhoods. The block clubs could have presented the ideas to their residents and encouraged voting. Instead, a group of people, some of whom don’t even live in the Masten District, picked 21 ideas (out of 600) that they thought would be good for us. Some of the projects are for a small section of the district.

Why are we voting on using our money for lighting on a couple of streets? That is a public works project. Why are we voting for new bus shelters? That’s for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to build. The projects should’ve been encompassing for the entire district. After all, it’s all of our money that’s being used.

What started out as a great and seemingly organized idea has devolved into a very rushed, disorganized mess. I am very disappointed in this process, since I started from the beginning and was hopeful to be a part of the complete process.

Eric Harvey