- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The much protested Common Core tests to be given to students in the spring will be shorter than in previous years, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Wednesday, telling education policy makers the length of the annual English and math assessments is one reason parents have had their children skip them.

“There will be fewer questions in every grade level,” Elia told the Board of Regents in Albany, adding that the following year’s assessments will be developed by a new vendor, Questar Assessment, which was awarded the contract over Pearson in July.

Future tests will not be “unduly long,” she said, and involve the input of more than 250 teachers. She said the department also will work to give teachers “almost immediate feedback” as the tests, given over six days, are transitioned to computer.

More than 200,000 third- through eighth-grade students, about 20 percent of those required to take the tests, sat out in April in protest of the classroom time they consume, their difficulty and the state’s use of them in rating teachers.

On Wednesday, a Regents committee adopted regulations that would allow teachers, under certain conditions, to appeal performance evaluations that are hurt by poor student performance on the tests. Teachers could appeal if they scored highly in other areas of the evaluation and their students did well on the tests the year before.



The appeals process comes as the state undertakes a review of its implementation of the Common Core learning standards on which the tests are based. The more rigorous standards have been adopted by most states and are intended as a map to college or a job.

But since their adoption, test scores have dropped and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month called the state’s rollout “deeply flawed.” He said he would seek reforms in his State of the State address in January.

On public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” on Tuesday, Regents Chancellor Merryll Tisch said the board has discussed renaming the standards, once adjusted, the Empire State standards or New York’s Higher standards, to avoid the “politicization” around the term Common Core.

Elia urged teachers to provide online feedback as part of the Common Core review process. Before Wednesday’s meeting, the New York State United Teachers union waged an email campaign urging the Regents to work toward ending the practice of tying teacher evaluations to the Common Core tests.

“The changes adopted today are a necessary step toward fixing a broken system that over-weights standardized testing, diminishes teaching and learning and uses ‘junk science’ to sort and rank teachers,” the union said in a statement after the appeals process was approved as part of emergency rules for teacher evaluations.

The rules, expected to be approved by the Board of Regents, follow Cuomo’s signing in April of a state law increasing the weight given to test scores in some evaluations. School districts, barring an extension, must revise evaluation plans by November to avoid losing state funding.

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