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October 26, 2013

State to reduce standardized tests

ALBANY — Some standardized tests in New York public schools could be eliminated, State Education Commissioner John King has told superintendents in a surprising announcement that cites “a variety of pressures” that may have hurt instruction. 

The move comes after years of criticism from teachers, parents and other detractors, some of whom said it still fell short.

The first target will be an eighth-grade math test, which comes at the same time as a federally required standardized test in math, King wrote in a letter sent Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press.

The Board of Regents is considering eliminating that test and others where possible in other grades, King said. Some tests, however, are required by the federal government. Grants will be provided to help school districts reduce local standardized tests, the letter states.

‘NOT SETTLED YET’

Noting that the frequency and number of tests has remained relatively constant over the past 10 years, King wrote to leaders of more than 700 districts that education officials “recognize that a variety of pressures at the state and local level may have resulted in more testing than is needed and in rote-test preparation that crowds out quality instruction.”

King told the State School Boards Association on Friday that nothing is settled yet but the U.S. Education Department seems receptive to granting the Regents exam’s request for a waiver, according to Robert Lowry, spokesman for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, who was in the audience for King’s speech.

The move came after an outcry over testing and teacher evaluations linked to the results, which peaked when King was shouted down by critics at an Oct. 10 forum in Poughkeepsie. That confrontation led to cancellation of other scheduled forums and calls for King’s resignation.

This week, King said, the Regents discussed “a comprehensive initiative to keep the focus on teaching.”

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