The New York Equity Coalition opposes New York State Education Department’s decision to seek a waiver for this year’s grades 3 through 8 state assessments
Civil rights, education, parent, and business groups say state assessment data is vital to understand the real academic impacts of the pandemic
NEW YORK – With interrupted instruction taking a disproportionate toll on students historically underserved by our education system, The New York Equity Coalition of civil rights, education, parent, and business groups is calling on the New York State Education Department to administer this year’s grades 3 through 8 state assessments as a way to measure students’ educational progress and the impact of the pandemic.
This school year has been exceptionally challenging for New York students and educators – with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, ever-evolving adjustments to teaching and learning, and the continued national reckoning with the impact of systemic racism. In this extraordinary context, coalition members remain deeply concerned that the same students who were subject to educational inequity before the pandemic remain most underserved by our education system.
State assessment data is vital to understand what the academic impacts of the pandemic have been – and how they differ across districts, schools, and student groups. The results of these summative assessments are essential to designing a path forward for New York State and fulfilling our education system’s fundamental responsibility to provide families with consistent, accurate information about whether their children are making progress towards meeting state academic standards – which parents indicated in a recent poll is more important than ever.
Recognizing this year’s unique circumstances, grades 3 through 8 assessments should be administered in a way that reflects the complexities of the current context and are as useful as possible for students, families, and educators:
- Offer remote assessments to increase participation among families who are not comfortable with in-person assessments;
- Provide results fast to ensure that stakeholders – families, school and district leaders, and policymakers – have the information they need to design and align supports in the summer of 2021 and prepare for the 2021-22 academic year;
- Explore shortening the tests and giving them later in the school year to meet social distancing requirements (for in-person assessments) and recognize the challenges facing students in taking assessments this year;
- Continue to lower the stakes by removing school level accountability measures while continuing to provide support to schools that were previously identified before the pandemic;
- Direct resources and support to target funding and technical support to the districts, communities, and schools with the greatest needs;
- Commit to transparency by publicly reporting the assessment results at the school, district, and state levels as quickly as possible, including disaggregated data for all student groups including by race/ethnicity, income status, English learner status, disability status, and housing status.
Even if the federal government allows NYSED to cancel state assessments this year, we urge New York State to preserve spring assessments in grades 3 through 8, Alternative Assessments for students with disabilities, and the June and August Regents exams as part of the state’s commitment to building back stronger.
“We understand state assessments are unpopular, however they are currently the only tool we have to assess student learning and deficiencies,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State. “While the past year has been one of the most challenging for everyone, it was especially for teachers and students. Families are seriously concerned about the loss of learning many students are experiencing throughout the pandemic, but without testing, there is no way to measure this. We urge the state to administer these tests safely so educators and families know what additional support and resources students need to be successful.”
“Parents have a right to know how well schools and districts served their children during the pandemic,” said Samuel L. Radford III, past president of the District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo and co-chairperson of We the Parents. “We know that students of color and students from low-income backgrounds – those who were underserved even before the pandemic – were disproportionately forced to rely on remote instruction. That is why it is vital, now more than ever, that the state administer these tests to identify which students suffered learning loss as a result of the pandemic, and to use that information to direct resources and support to get them back on track in the classroom.”
“At United Way of New York City, we have worked to identify and address the opportunity gaps that have existed in our educational system for generations,” said Sheena Wright, president & CEO of United Way of New York City. “Eliminating assessments does not make opportunity gaps disappear. On the contrary, they are necessary to identify and address where our education system needs to invest resources and efforts to address the growing disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
About The New York Equity Coalition
The New York Equity Coalition includes Better Schools Better Neighborhoods, Brooklyn YWCA, the Buffalo Urban League, The Business Council of New York State, Business Council of Westchester, Capital Region Chamber, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Democrats for Education Reform-NY, District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, The Education Trust–New York, Educators for Excellence, EPIC-Every Person Influences Children, Hispanic Federation, ImmSchools, INCLUDEnyc, National Center for Learning Disabilities, New York Urban League, Open Buffalo, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, Public Policy Institute of New York State, Read Alliance, Turnaround for Children, UnidosUS, United Way of New York City, the Urban League of Long Island, the Urban League of Rochester, and the Urban League of Westchester County.