Students begin English tests today

It’s testing time for New York students.

Today, students in grades 3 through 8 started the statewide English language arts assessments. They’ll spend up to one-and-a-half hours a day for three consecutive days, finishing Thursday.

The length of testing depends on the grade level and the type of test being taken by the student. For third- and fourth-graders, the ELA test is 70 minutes long and 60 minutes for the math portion. For fifth- through eighth-graders, the English test is 90 minutes long and the math is 70 minutes.

The statewide math assessments are scheduled for April 30 through May 2.

This is the second year that the assessments will be based on the Common Core Learning Standards adopted by most states. The new standards emphasize critical thinking, reading comprehension and writing.

As the tests have gotten more difficult, the stakes have gotten higher. New York now requires that annual teacher evaluations take into account student performance on the assessments.

Under the new state budget deal, this year’s tests can’t be used as the sole means of determining student placement.

Some parents say New York puts too much emphasis on testing and that they’ll have their kids skip them.

Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox said this morning that 31 students from the district were opted out of the testing.

“We didn’t actually announce an opt-out,” she said. “We asked parents to write a letter (to the principal).”

Fox said the students will spend the test time reading quietly in the library.

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania hadn’t added up the opt-outs this morning, but he said that as of Monday, about three or four families in each of his district’s two schools had decided against having their students take the test.

Keene Central School had one student opt out. The number of opt-outs in Tupper Lake schools were not available as of press time this morning.