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News and Notes
Dear Colleagues,

Since becoming Commissioner last summer, I have traveled more than 20,000 miles across New York State to meet with teachers, administrators, parents, students, school board members, and community groups. While on those trips, I have heard a lot of concerns from a lot of New Yorkers. 

It's no surprise that much of what I heard was related to the Grade 3-8 English Language Arts and Math Tests. I heard parents didn't want them used in teacher evaluations. I heard they were too long. I heard there weren't enough New York State teachers involved. I heard parents and teachers question if the tests held any value at all. I know the Grades 3 through 8 English Language Arts and Math Tests aren't perfect.

I know past tests had issues. And I know it might be premature to use our assessments for teacher evaluations before the assessments have been tuned up.

So, we hired a new company to help us develop future assessments. We brought teachers from across the State to Albany to review every reading passage, word problem, and multiple-choice question on this spring's tests to make sure they're fair. In all, every item has been reviewed by at least 22 educators. Going forward, we'll bring even more teachers into the process.

We reduced the number of test questions and alleviated time pressure for test takers. Students who are productively working will be able to demonstrate what they know and are able to do, even if it takes more time. We're interested in what students know, not how fast they can go.

Our tests are improved this year, but we want to make them ever better going forward. Our work includes a review of the learning standards, which is happening right now. It also includes enhancing resources for teachers to help them bring our standards to life in the classroom. You can hear more about what we are doing to improve the 3-8 testing program here.

At its meeting in February, the Board of Regents discussed a new proposed process and timeline for development and implementation of new ELA and Math standards, curriculum, and assessments. You will find more details about the proposal below.

The Department is creating two review committees, one for ELA and one for math, to help develop our new standards. The committees will be made up of teachers, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders. In the coming weeks, interested educators will be able to submit an online application with a letter of recommendation and resume in order to be considered for a committee spot. Updates will be available soon on AIMHighNY. We hope you will consider applying!


MaryEllen Elia
New ELA and Math Standards, Curriculum, and Assessments
Proposed process and timeline for development and implementation
teacher with students
At the February Board of Regents meeting, Commissioner Elia shared the State's plan for the development of new ELA and Mathematics standards, thereby extending the work that began with the AimHighNY survey. A new proposed timeline, contingent on funding to support the revision and implementation, described the opportunities for involvement throughout the standards development process, the time frame available to local schools and districts to create curriculum and related instructional resources that are consistent with the new standards, and the State's tentative plans for when new assessments based on the new standards will be available.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
At the February Board of Regents meeting, the Board heard a presentation about the new Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which takes the place of the "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

students using computers
Computer-Based Testing Question Sampler

This spring, many students across New York State will take the New York State Grades 3-8 ELA and Mathematics Field Tests on computers for the first time. Educators, students, and parents need tools to help students get comfortable taking a test on a computer. A New York State Question Sampler is now available for educators, students, and parents.

  Additional information, including how to access the sampler, is available here.
Field Advisory on Testing Accommodations
NYSED recently released a memo to reiterate the State's policy on the appropriate identification and implementation of testing accommodations for students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners (ELLs).

Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to Citizenship
At its February meeting, the Board of Regents discussed a proposed amendment to the Regulations of the Commissioner relating to citizenship for the professions and teaching and educational leadership service. Currently, individuals who are granted deferred action childhood arrivals (DACA) relief under Federal Executive Order and are allowed to continue to be lawfully present in the United States without fear of deportation are not eligible for State licensure in the professions or for professional teaching certification under the Regulations of the Commissioner.

However, New York enables hundreds of thousands of undocumented students, including DACA students, to receive education through the state's public school system and to graduate with New York high school diplomas. Yet their futures historically have been circumscribed by current federal law restricting the issuance of professional licenses based on immigration status and State laws and/or regulations that imposed citizenship requirements for professional licensing in certain professions and for certification as a teacher or school leader.

The State Education Department recommends that the Board of Regents use its broad authority over the granting of licenses in the Title VIII professions and the certification of teachers to promulgate regulations expressly authorizing otherwise qualified aliens who are not unlawfully present in the U.S. and who meet all other licensure requirements except citizenship to become licensed or certified.

The proposed amendment will be before the Board of Regents for action in the spring.

Special Education Field Advisory Memo

Local educational agencies may request an exception from the New York State Education Department to exceed the one percent cap on proficient and advanced scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Completed applications must be received by April 1, 2016 for consideration of exceptions for the 2015-16 school year.
On Your Mark, Get Set...Read

children and teacher reading
The New York State Library is pleased to announce that the 2016 Explore New York: On Your Mark, Get Set...Read recreational reading lists are now available. These reading lists for children and teens are designed to help libraries promote New York State-related recreational summer reading and are available for download and printing.  We encourage schools and school libraries to contact and partner with public libraries in their communities to make students and parents fully aware of everything that public libraries have to offer over the summer.