COVID-19 Updates and Information

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Dear Parent or Guardian,

This spring, our schools will administer the NYS Grades 3-8 assessments is English Language Arts (April 2nd & 3rd) and Mathematics (May 1st & 2nd).  These annual ELA and math tests for students in grades 3-8 are required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. The tests are designed to measure how well students are mastering the learning standards that guide classroom instruction and help to ensure that students are on track to graduate from high school with the critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills needed for success in college and the modern workplace. The tests also show how schools and districts are progressing with the learning standards and can support professional development for teachers.  

Like the 2018 tests, the 2019 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests consist of two testing sessions each.  This means that students will take each subject test over two testing days. Like the 2016-2018 tests, the 2019 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests will be untimed.  As long as students are working productively, they will have as much time as they need to complete each test session, within the confines of the regular school day.  Hundreds of New York State educators were involved in creating and reviewing the questions for the 2019 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. This year, most of the test questions were written by New York State teachers specifically for the annual New York State tests.  The ELA and Math Tests include multiple choice and open-ended questions, which assess the grade level learning standards. The questions require students to apply their knowledge and, in open-ended response, explain their reasoning. Students will read texts, write responses, and solve real-world word problems, all of which are foundational skills necessary for success in their next grade.  Like the previous three years, the New York State Education Department plans to have instructional reports returned to teachers by the end of the school year and to release at least 75% of the test questions. The 2019 Score Reports for Parents will feature more information about what students should know and be able to do at each specific grade level.

Things every parent should know about student participation in statewide assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): [The Every Student Succeeds Act outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools.]

  • ESSA requires that every state assess all students in English Language Arts and math each year in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school.
  • States must ensure that 95% of students in each public school, including charter schools, participate yearly in the required assessments.
  • There are no consequences for a child who does not participate in a state assessment.  However, state assessment results are used to help:
    • Parents learn about their child’s academic achievement;
    • Teachers understand how well students are learning what is being taught;
    • School, district, and state education leaders determine what is and is not working well; and
    • Stakeholders identify achievement gaps that may be forming among different student populations.
  • Results are provided to help students and parents better understand where a student is doing well and where he or she may need additional assistance.
  • All students receive a score report; those who do not participate receive a report that indicates that the student did not take the test and did not receive a valid score.  
  • At the elementary/middle level, students will be considered “not tested” if they:
    • are absent from school for one or more of the test sessions and the missed session(s) are not completed during the makeup period;
    • are present for one or more test sessions but do not respond to even one question on the test; or
    • refuse to participate in both test sessions.
  • If a student refuses some but not all questions or sessions of the assessment, the student will receive a score and performance level based on the questions they completed.
  • At the elementary/middle school level, schoolwide achievement in English, math, and science is measured in two ways:
    • (1) As required by ESSA, by adjusting the reported performance of a subgroup of students when fewer than 95% of students are tested; and
    • (2) Based only on results from students who participated in state assessments. Schools are then compared to the previous year’s index as well as measures of interim progress, long-term goals, and an end goal to determine how much progress students in the school made in ELA and math.
  • Participation (or lack of participation) in ELA, math and science assessments may affect the school’s “Composite Achievement Level” and “Progress Level,” which could in turn, affect a school or district’s accountability status. When more than 5% of continuously enrolled students in an accountability group do not participate in state assessments, a subgroup’s “Weighted Average Achievement Index” decreases. In some cases, this can result in an accountability group receiving a lower “Composite Achievement Level.” Nonetheless, so as long as the students in an accountability group who are tested perform average or above in language arts, math, and science or have average or above students’ growth in language arts and mathematics, the school is not at risk of identification for Comprehensive Support and Improvement or Targeted Support and Improvement and passed on the performance of that accountability group regardless of the percentage of students who participated in the state assessments.

Weighted Average Achievement Index: a measure of achievement based on all students, including those who did not take the assessments; schools receive a Level 1-4 on this measure.

Composite Achievement Level: a measure of achievement that considers the Weighted Average Achievement Index, as well as a measure of achievement based only on students who took the assessments; schools receive a Level 1- 4 on this measure.

Progress Level: based on subgroup performance in relation to an end goal, long-term goals, and measures of interim progress (i.e., targets) in ELA and math; schools receive a Level 1-4 on this measure.

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, schools that meet ALL six of the criteria below will be required to create a participation rate improvement plan.  On either the ELA or math assessments, a subgroup at the school must:

  1. Fail to meet the 95% test participation requirement in the 2017-18;
  2. Fail to meet the 95% test participation requirement in the 2018-19;
  3. Did not improve its participation rate between 2016-17 and 2017-18;
  4. Did not improve its in participation rate between 2017-18 and 2018-19;
  5. Did not perform at Level 3 or 4 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index in the 2017-18 school year; AND
  6. Did not perform at Level 3 or 4 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index in the 2018-19 school year.

In addition, a school cannot be removed from Comprehensive Support and Improvement status or Targeted Support and Improvement status if the school is required to implement a participation rate improvement plan for a group for which the school is identified and the group performs at Level 1 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index. Schools may not be recognized as Recognition Schools or Blue Ribbon Schools if they fail to meet the 95% participation rate requirement.


James McHugh
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction