Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests

What are the State and federal rules about test participation? The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that State tests be administered in English language arts and mathematics in Grades 3-8, and in science at least once during Grades 3-5 and 6-9. In accordance with the federal and State requirements, public school students in grades 3-8 take assessments administered for their grade level. How are test results used? State assessments are an important part of a student’s core educational program. They provide an evaluation of student mastery of content and skills in various courses of study and help shape future instruction. This year, for the first time, State tests in English language arts and mathematics for students in grades 3-8 will be aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards, which define what students need to know at each grade level to be on track to graduate high school ready for college and careers. Along with student work on classroom assignments, projects, essays, and assessments, State test results give teachers important information about where students are on their path towards college and careers. State test results are also used along with other factors to inform decisions about students and schools. Educators use State test results to determine whether students are prepared for promotion to the next grade, and to inform decisions about admission to some middle and high schools. The New York City Department of Education uses test results to evaluate schools on the New York City Progress Reports. The State uses test results to evaluate schools as required by State and federal accountability rules, and in accordance with State regulations, New York City will begin using test scores as part of teachers’ evaluations beginning next school year. As assessments become more challenging, controls are in place to make sure that no one is hurt by the changes in the tests. After the tests, roughly the same number of students will attend summer school. Teacher evaluation and school accountability will adjust accordingly so no one is punished by the change in assessments. For more information about the changes in the tests, please see this letter from Chancellor Walcott and visit the Common Core Library. Is there a provision for parents to opt their children out of State tests or request an alternative evaluation? With the exception of certain areas in which parental consent is required, such as Committee on Special Education (CSE) evaluations for students with disabilities and certain federally-funded surveys and analyses specified under the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, there is no provision in the State statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests or request an alternative evaluation. For more information, see this State guidance. Are parents required to use specific language when opting out of the state tests? With the exception of certain areas in which parental consent is required, there is no formal provision allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests. If students do not participate in testing, there are some implications for promotion, enrollment, and accountability. What happens during test administration if a student is absent or refuses to take a State test? 4/15/2013 1

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests

If a student is absent during test administration, the school will administer the test during the makeup period. If a student is also absent during the makeup period, the student will not be tested. If a student is in school and refuses to take a State test, he or she will be engaged in another instructional activity, such as reading or completing another project or assignment. What happens after test administration if a student does not participate in State testing? When students do not participate in State testing, there are implications for their promotion and enrollment, and for schools’ State accountability status. For promotion decisions, students who do not have State test results complete a portfolio assessment in accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation A-501. Promotion portfolio assessments are prepared based on specified exercises that assess students’ proficiency. Results are reviewed by the teacher, principal and then by the superintendent, who makes a final determination based upon standard benchmarks. Students who achieve proficiency based on the portfolio assessment will be promoted. Note: some students with IEPs and some English Language Learners have different promotion standards based on their needs, as described here. For enrollment decisions, grades 3 and 4 test scores are used for Gifted and Talented placement in grades 4 and 5; grade 4 scores are used for placement for some middle school programs, and grade 7 scores are used for the high school admissions process. Students’ attendance rate may also be a factor in admissions decisions. Students without test scores can still participate in these admissions processes, but they may be at a disadvantage because their applications won’t have as much information as those of their peers. Some schools may review promotion portfolio assessments or other information, but not all schools do. For school accountability: Under State and federal accountability rules, New York State measures each school’s rate of participation in State tests. Regardless of the reason (i.e. absence or refusal), if less than 95% of a school or one or more of its subgroups of students (e.g., Hispanic students, students with disabilities, Limited English Proficient students) take the assessment, the school does not make Adequate Yearly Progress. Schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) can be identified as Local Assistance Plan schools by New York State. In addition, schools that do not make AYP cannot become Reward schools, and existing Priority and Focus schools that do not make the AYP participation target cannot be removed from negative status. Priority, Focus, and Local Assistance Plan schools are reviewed for support and intervention. While no new Priority schools will be identified through the 2014-15 school year, a school’s accountability status can change. For example, schools in Good Standing can become Local Assistance Plan schools, and existing Priority and Focus schools can be removed from negative status if they meet the AYP participation target and other performance requirements. All intervention decisions are based on intensive review of many factors; no intervention would ever be made solely on the basis of the State test participation rate.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests
How will this year’s State test results impact New York City Progress Reports? This year’s test results will inform schools’ New York City Progress Reports. As the State tests change in alignment with the Common Core Learning Standards, the Progress Report will continue to account for changes in the tests by measuring each school’s performance in comparison to other schools. Schools whose test scores are lower than in past years can continue to receive high Progress Report grades if their students’ performance and progress are higher relative to other schools, particularly schools serving similar students. The distribution of elementary and middle schools’ grades will also remain fixed, so there will not be an increase in the percentage of schools that receive low grades. How will this year’s State test results impact teacher evaluations? This year, test scores will not impact teacher evaluations and teachers will continue to be evaluated using the existing Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory system that does not include students’ test scores. In future years, test scores will be factored into teacher evaluations. The State’s model for measuring teacher growth includes protections to keep teachers’ evaluations from being impacted by changes to the tests. Is the information in the sample test refusal letter proposed by United Opt Out accurate? The sample test refusal letter accurately notes that students who miss the test are scored with different codes depending on the reason they miss the test. However, all students who miss the test, regardless of the reason (i.e. absence or refusal), are coded as “999” and identified as “not tested.” According to State guidelines, there is no formal provision for parents to opt their children out of state tests, and all students who fall under the “not tested” category will be counted against the school’s participation rate. Can parents review their children’s tests after they have been administered? Parents can view their children’s test results online in ARIS Parent Link. Also, schools distribute Individual Student Reports for families to learn about their child’s performance. Parents may review portions of their children’s tests after they have been administered. Parents may contact their children’s school to request to review their child’s responses to open-ended questions in English Language Arts Book 3 and Book 4 and Mathematics Book 3. The review must take place in the presence of school personnel. Photocopying of any of the test materials is not permitted. The State does not permit parents to review their children’s responses to the multiple choice component of their children’s test. The State decided not to release test questions because if they did release the questions, they would not be able to reuse them in future years. By not releasing the test questions to the public, the State can decrease cost of test development. If the State did release the questions, they would need to pay more each year for new questions to be developed. Also, not releasing the test questions enables the State to embed field test questions on the operational test without compromising security, reducing additional classroom time needed for field testing. What are field tests and why are they administered? Is parent permission required for field testing? Can parents opt out of field testing?

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests
Similar to State tests, there is no formal opt out provision or permission process for field tests. While there are not specific consequences for individual students who do not participate, field tests are an important part of the test development process. Through field testing, the State tries out new questions to make sure they are valid, reliable, and unbiased before they are included in operational tests. Without field testing, there is no way to ensure that test questions are fair and accurate. Field testing ensures that questions are valid, meaning that the questions measure what they are intended to measure. Field testing ensures reliability, meaning that the tests produce similar results, even when taken at different times by different students. An important part of this process is ensuring that test questions are not biased against any group of students. The questions on the field tests and operational tests are the property of the State. Contractors and testing companies who work with the State’s testing program do not acquire any ownership of the questions. Beginning this year, the State is improving the tests in alignment with the Common Core standards. Changing the quality of the tests means introducing new, more meaningful and rigorous test questions that ask students to write essays, solve problems and answer open-ended questions. Field testing these new questions is an important part of improving the quality of the assessments. What field tests are being administered this spring? Field test questions will be included in the operational tests administered in April and additional standalone field tests will be administered in early June. Because field testing takes place during the school day, the State has taken steps to minimize the impact of field testing on instructional time: Multiple choice field test questions are included on the operational math and ELA tests to reduce the number of standalone field test required. So, within the operational tests administered in the spring, there will be some embedded multiple choice field test questions. These questions will not be included in students’ scores. They will be interspersed throughout the sections of the test. Students will not know which questions are field test questions and which questions will count towards their score. In addition, standalone field tests will try out open answer questions which cannot be included in the operational tests. Schools are only selected for standalone field testing once a year. Some schools administered field tests in October; these schools will not administer field tests again in June. Schools will be selected for field testing in math or English, not both. Schools that are selected will administer field tests in no more than two grades. School staff will not be responsible for scoring these field tests. Field tests take no more than one period to administer and students engage in regular instruction for the remainder of the school day.

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How does testing relate to inBloom? If a child’s test results are not included in the inBloom database, what are the consequences? inBloom is a nonprofit organization that is building data infrastructure to enable teachers to access student records and learning resources more easily and at lower cost. Currently, New York City educators and families access student data through ARIS. These tools were built in prior years, so they are not connected to inBloom. 4/15/2013 4

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests
In the coming years, the State will introduce new online data tools called the Education Data Portal (EDP). When the EDP is ready, New York City teachers and families will transition from using ARIS to using the State’s Education Data Portal. The EDP will display student performance data from inBloom. At that point, inBloom will not display test results for students who do not take State tests. This means that educators and families reviewing student information using these online tools will not be able to access this information about these students’ performance. Like all student data systems that the DOE uses, inBloom and the EDP are being developed in compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which defines required protections for student data. If commercial vendors are hired to develop applications that use inBloom, their contracts will continue to require FERPA compliance. As with other applications that the NYCDOE uses, no company or commercial vendor will be able to use student data for any purpose other than the one outlined in its contract. Re-disclosure of student data to other parties not authorized in the contract is prohibited. Data will never be sold and student data will never become the property of InBloom. What type of educational records will be included in inBloom’s database? According to the State, the information that will be included in inBloom’s database include student demographic information; parent contact information (necessary for data security and authorization purposes); student enrollment; program participation; dates of absences, out-of-school suspensions, and course outcomes (necessary for early warning determinations); and State assessment scores. The State has collected these types of data for approximately ten years in order to meet its State and federal compliance and program evaluation mandates, including public reporting of school report cards, school and district accountability determinations, cohort graduation rates, and college- and career-readiness determinations. The State does not and will not collect social security numbers. For more information, see this memo. Is there a privacy risk for student data included in the Education Data Portal? No. Protecting student privacy is of the utmost importance, and the NYCDOE takes this responsibility seriously. All student data are managed in accordance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which defines required protections for student data. Since online data tools have been available, New York City schools have used them in a way that is consistent with FERPA protections. Student data privacy and protections in NYC will not change; inBloom is being developed in compliance with FERPA. Consistent with FERPA, the NYCDOE will continue to set the privacy and security policies that govern how that data are protected, including who has access to it and for what purposes. If commercial vendors are hired to develop applications that use the inBloom data system, their contracts will continue to require FERPA compliance. Additional information on EDP data security can be found here. Can parents opt out of having their child’s data provided to inBloom and displayed in the Education Data Portal? There is no provision for parents to opt their children out of inBloom. Student data available in the EDP are needed for educators and administrators to support instructional planning. Looking at student data helps teachers understand individual students’ areas of strength and need, and supports teachers in tailoring instruction and resources to better serve their students and accelerate student progress and achievement. The State and the NYCDOE have strong measures in place to protect student privacy and ensure data security. 4/15/2013 5

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests

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