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By Brian Fritsch

Every summer, students, parents and teachers anxiously prepare for the new school year – purchasing supplies, reviewing past materials and gearing up for a fresh start. Unfortunately, when students across the state entered their classrooms this year, they did not have all the information they needed.

When school started, the New York State Department of Education had yet to release the results of the previous year’s state English language arts and mathematics assessments. The results, in fact, were just released Wednesday. This means that parents were deprived of invaluable insight into what their students had and had not grasped during the previous school year.

This isn’t new. Over the past few years, release dates have been getting later, and we must act now to reverse this trend.

We clearly recognize that the delay this year was exacerbated by the need for a new standards-setting process after the recent switch from three-day testing to two-day testing. When implementing new policies, smart precautions are necessary, and delays are bound to occur. However, moving forward, it is essential that we improve. In future years, we need to hold ourselves to the highest standard, which means that assessment reports are released by August at the absolute latest.

During the past few years, High Achievement New York has been engaging in wide-ranging conversations throughout the state on assessments in general. Through these dialogues, one thing always becomes evident: The longer it takes to return test scores, the less useful they become.

Ultimately, a delay like this year’s contributes to the opt-out problem. Tests are imperative to providing a year-to-year progress report of students’ growth to parents and educators, and we cannot let delays undermine the quality of these objective tools. We must ensure the assessment results are produced in a timely manner and that the process moves forward as efficiently as possible.

Luckily, success is undeniably achievable. Most states have quicker turnaround times for their grade three to eight assessments, and New York should strive to implement a similarly timely process.

The state has already invested considerable time and energy listening to parents and teachers and working to resolve their concerns on a variety of issues. It has also demonstrated a commitment to assessments as an essential check on the most important aspects of our children’s education and a willingness to implement smart, practical solutions.

We need to work together to ensure this issue is prioritized. We are confident that we can guarantee this vital learning tool to students, parents and educators – before they step foot in the classroom next September.

Brian Fritsch is deputy executive director for High Achievement New York, a coalition that advocates for high standards in schools.

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