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State suspends testing for grades three to eight amid coronavirus outbreak

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The New York State Education Department has suspended all grades three to eight exams for the 2019-2020 school year because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

The announcement came on March 20.

Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe remarked in a joint statement, “It is most important that during the time of closure, schools are able to continue to focus their efforts toward local school and community needs, as they have been doing, and not be concerned about state assessments. NYSED has applied for federal waivers for testing, accountability and reporting requirements.”

As previously reported by the Herald, earlier in the week the NYSED had suspended shipping the grades three through eight English Language Arts tests that were scheduled to arrive in schools March 16 to 18. SED officials said this was done because schools are closed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“The situation is evolving rapidly, and NYSED is currently working on its plans for the state assessment,” Zachary Warner wrote in a March 17 email to district superintendents, school principals and leaders of charter school. He is the director of the Office of State Assessment for SED.

“The Office of State Assessment will continue to communicate with schools and districts as more information becomes available,” he added. “During the time of closure, schools need not focus on state assessments and can devote their efforts toward local school and community needs.”

Annette Denehy, past president of the Sewanhaka High School Parent Teacher Association, said she thought the state made the right decision in suspending the tests, and Anthony Maffea, a trustee on the Elmont school board, agreed.

“For our kids to be home for this length of time, to then go back and have to sit through the test,” he said, “I’m against it.”

They both also noted that they were more concerned about how the coronavirus outbreak would affect the rest of the school year. Maffea doubted students would return to school anytime soon, and said, “We are in uncharted territory.”

Denehy, meanwhile, wondered what would happen with the state Regents exams, Advanced Placement tests and SAT and ACT exams that are required for college admission. The College Board announced in response to similar questions that it would shorted AP exams to 45 minutes and would concentrate on material taught before March. It would also give students a choice of test dates.

It has also created a website with updates related to schools impacted by the coronavirus. Go to, www.apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update.

Additionally, the state teachers’ union said it is working with the SED and state Board of Regents to help ensure that the federal government waives testing mandates and that no school is penalized. The teachers’ union said that even if school should re-open in several weeks, there would be substantially less test preparation time, placing the students at distinct advantage to do well and the results would skewed.

“Even worse, considering the pervasive unease and uncertainty that this global pandemic has created, it simply isn’t fair or prudent to create more stress and anxiety for our students,” New York State United Teachers officials said.