Important Information on New York State Assessments

As our teachers prepare for the NY State Assessments, I want to provide you with important new test information that may affect your decision to refuse to have your student take the test. Although the state has previously threatened to take action on districts with low participation rates, Lakeland has never been penalized. That will change this year.
 
Instead of dividing test scores by the number of test takers, this year scores will be divided by the eligible population. If the low participation rate continues, the new formula will result in Lakeland schools being penalized and placed on a State Improvement Plan. An improvement plan is not a positive form of promotion for the district.
 
In the past, state testing has not received support in part due to scores being tied into teacher evaluations. Once the Governor signs the new legislation, this will no longer be the case and each district will have the authority to negotiate its own teacher evaluation system based on the local assessments we choose. In addition, student results have no bearing on student records so there will be no consequences for taking the tests.
     
Over the years, there have been significant revisions to the tests. All of the questions are now created by New York teachers and curriculum specialists including educators from Lakeland. The number of testing days has been reduced and students have as much time as they need to complete sections. Additionally, we now have access to most of the testing questions which helps us adjust the district’s instructional practices. This testing data helps identify specific strengths and weaknesses in students, classes, and schools so that we can adjust instruction, identify and share best practices, and improve performance for all.
 
We are seeing some adverse effects on our students who have previously “opted out.” Students who have never had the experience of taking the Grades 3-8 exams eventually take Regents exams to earn graduation credits. We are hearing that a number of students are demonstrating test anxiety and frustration because they lack the experience of taking standardized ELA and Math tests. Regents are not the only tests that our high school students take. There are also Advanced Placement Tests, the SAT, and ACT exams. We firmly believe test taking in grades 3-8 provides a solid foundation for future, higher stakes testing.
 
For all of these reasons, we urge you to encourage your children to take the state assessments this year. Let's continue to make Lakeland the "District of Choice" in Westchester and Putnam counties and not become another name on the list of districts who are labeled as a school district in need of improvement. Let Lakeland remain the district who chooses our own path of "continuous improvement" based upon the district’s own Mission, Vision, and Core Beliefs.