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NYS Education Department Seeks More Funding and Will Eliminate Time Limits Next Round of Testing

apple on books with pencils and empty blackboard - back to schoolAs long as students are “working productively,” they will have as long as they need to finish the next Common Core-based state testing, according to New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and reported by the Democrat and Chronicle.

After last year saw 20%, or approximately 200,000, elementary and middle-school aged children opt of of the standardized testing, Elia and the education department knew they had to do something to try and win back support. The pressure of time was one of the main complaints against the state’s new testing model. Kids will now be able to complete the math and English language arts test, which are administered over the course of six days in April, at their own pace.

“I heard from parents across this state and from teachers that part of the stresses that we had on our kids was that they were timed, and particularly younger children,” Elia said. “So if they are working productively, then they will be able to continue the assessment in a setting where they can read, comprehend and respond to the questions that correspond.”

The announcement actually came at the state legislature’s budget hearings this past Wednesday, Jan. 27, where a lot of focus was on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $145 billion budget proposal. In his proposal, Cuomo included a $991 million increase to education funding, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for Elia, who called for a $2.4 billion increase at the hearing.

Although she hasn’t been on the job for very long (about seven months), these actions are just the latest shakeups Elia has suggested. She’s already promised to make the standardized testing shorter overall by eliminating some of the multiple choice questions contained in the tests and selected a new company to contract the tests from.

Last July the Education Department effectively fired Pearson, the London-based long-time testing supplier for the state, and awarded a $44 million contract to Questar Inc., a Minneapolis-based company. Because they are still in a transition period, this year’s test questions will still be developed by Pearson, much to the chagrin of teachers, parents, and students who have bashed the test-maker. Private schools in the state, which account for 24% of the nation’s schools and enroll 10% of all Pre-K through 12th grade students, are unaffected by the public changes.

“I do think they are substantial changes that we have made,” Elia said. “I think it’s important for people to understand that, and I hope that parents and teachers and districts across the state are getting that word out.”