With the New York state tests done and gone, Rockville Centre School District administrators were able to get a look at the exams and see, first hand, how difficult they were for students.
According to Christopher Pellettieri, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, district officials could not go into specifics about the exam questions they saw because the state made them sign a non-disclosure agreement.
“The state promised difficult, arduous exams,” Pellettieri said, “and they certainly delivered in that regard.” He pointed out that the fifth graders, for example, were tested for 540 minutes — 90 minutes a day for three days for the ELA exam and the same for the math exam a week later.
Due to the increased difficulty of the exams, the state told school districts to expect failure rates increase between 30 and 40 percent. That is a significant increase for most districts, especially Rockville Centre where the average failure rate is between zero and 10 percent.
When going through the exams, Pellettieri felt that the length was one of the factors that could lead to failures, saying that kids were losing steam by the end of the tests.
“Kids were scoring well through the whole test and then started falling off towards the end,” he said. “And many kids not answering the last question or so.” He added that he was worried that, instead of decreasing the number of questions on the exam, the state may just increase the testing period.
One of the pressing questions the Board of Education had the administrators address was what would happen to the more than 300 children in Rockville Centre who opted out of the tests.
According to Superintendent Dr. William Johnson, there will be no repercussions for students who did not take the exam. Students that need extra help will still receive it and any student’s grade will not be impacted. The district, however, may wind up in a fight with the state about whether or not the children participated in the exam.