State Tests for Schools on the Chopping Block

Monday, June 21, 2010

A proposal to eliminate New York State's annual exams in social studies for elementary and middle school students will be considered Monday by a Board of Regents committee.

The state's education department says the reason is purely financial. Before No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements went into effect in 2003, the state spent $14 million annually on testing for grades three through eight. This year it spent almost $45 million and the testing division has a projected deficit. The state says the tests are becoming more and more expensive to administer.

The proposal calls for doing away with partial retests for students who fail their math and English Regents twice. These Component Retests, as they’re called, are only given to about 9,000 students a year but they cost $1.6 million. The state would also eliminate the social studies exams for grades five and eight that are taken by almost half a million students annually. Unlike math, English and science, these civics tests are not required by the federal government. But New York City has expressed concerns. A city Department of Education spokesman said eliminating assessments may undermine the state’s own goal of raising standards in the classroom.

The full Board of Regents will vote Tuesday. But even with these savings the testing division isn’t out of the hole. It’s requested $7 million from the state and if the budget isn’t in place by August -– or if it doesn’t include the $7 million -- then cuts to other tests will be considered. These include eliminating the eighth grade English as a Second Language proficiency test, all foreign language Regents exams for high school students except for French and Spanish, doing away with translations, and eliminating January Regents exams.

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