By Joseph Spector, Gannett Albany
Amid criticism over increased student testing, the state Education Department will look to limit some exams and offer additional grants to schools, state Education Department Commissioner John King said in a letter Thursday to superintendents.
WEB EXTRA: Read King's letter sent to superintendents
King has faced growing complaints from teachers and students over the rigorous requirements of the state's Common Core testing. Earlier this week, the state Board of Regents gave King latitude with some testing, including on eight-grade math exams.
"Testing is an important part of the instructional cycle and necessary to monitor student academic progress and contribute to decisions at the classroom, school, district and state levels," King wrote. "However, the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making."
King said he has asked the U.S. Education Department, which oversees the Common Core mandates, to let eight-grade students take only a Regents exam in Algebra, rather than the Regents exam and a federally required math test.
King said the state is also planning to offer a Native Language Arts tests for English language learners and also allow students with severe disabilities to be tested based on instructional level rather than age. He said the state is looking at other possible changes to tests.
King said the state will also use federal funding through the Race to the Top program to offer additional grants to schools to help administer the exams.
King has faced a barrage of criticism at recent public forums about Common Core. Earlier this month, he was berated by parents in Poughkeepsie, leading him to cancel a series of other events. After he was knocked for the decision, King decided to hold 16 forums, and the first was held Thursday night in Albany.
The next one is slated for Monday in Westchester County. Subsequent meetings will be held Nov. 7 in Rochester, Nov. 25 in the Southern Tier and Dec. 3 in Syracuse, according to the Education Department. Three are scheduled on Long Island: Nov. 6, Nov. 13 and Dec. 9.
Specific venues and times have not yet been finalized.
King noted that testing still remains a small part of the school year.
"There are approximately 64,800 minutes in the typical school year," King wrote. "Each year, a maximum of 540 of those minutes are devoted to state tests in Grades 3-8 ELA and math - less than 1% of the school year. It's what we do with the other roughly 64,000 minutes that will determine how successful our students become."