Two female students working alongside one another at their desks.

New York State Tests and Learning Standards

Each year, the City School District of Albany, like public school districts throughout the state, prepares for state testing. Students in grades 3-8 take the ELA and math exams. Additionally, students in grades 4 and 8 take the science exam. Other exams the State Education Department issues annually include:

  • Regents exams – high school exams that measure ability in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language.
  • New York State English-as-a-Second-Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) exams – these tests measure the progress of English-language learners from kindergarten through grade 12.

Please keep in mind that our primary goal is to raise the achievement of all students and, in so doing, close the achievement gap. In order to do this, we must have a well-designed curriculum, exceptional teaching and an assessment program that allows us to measure and personalize student learning to meet every child's needs.

All of New York’s statewide exams are designed to measure how well students are mastering the learning standards that guide classroom instruction. The state’s goal is to help ensure that students are on track to graduate from high school with the critical-thinking, problem-solving and reasoning skills needed for success in today’s world. No single test provides a complete picture of a child’s abilities. But when combined with grades, classroom activities, unit quizzes and tests, and district-level assessments such as NWEA, the annual state tests can provide important information about a child’s academic progress.

We encourage all of our students to do their very best on everything they do in school, including these annual state tests. Parents and guardians can support their children by making sure the get plenty of sleep the night before each test, and starts the day with a healthy breakfast.

Q: Are the tests timed? How long does a student have to complete each part of the exams?

There is no time limit for the state exams. The tests are untimed and shorter than they were in the past. On average the tests take about 90 minutes, but students have all the time they need to complete the tests, which can reduce test anxiety.

Q: How are test results used?

State assessments are an important part of a student’s core educational program. They provide an evaluation of student mastery of content and skills in various courses of study, serve as a tool for measuring the degree to which students are on track to graduate high school college- and career-ready, and help shape future instruction. Along with student work on classroom assignments, projects, essays and assessments, state test results give teachers important information about where students are on their path toward college and careers.

Q: Are there resources for parents and guardians to help students get ready to do their best on the state exams?

Yes. The State Education Department provides helpful information and resources for families, including a series of vidoes regarding the state exams and Common Core Learning Standards.

Q: Are the state exam results linked to teachers’ performance evaluation?

No. The State Education commissioner has postponed the use of the grade 3-8 exam results in teachers’ ratings as part of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). However, the district still is required to calculate a transitional teacher rating using the state test results.

Q: What do the regulations say about a parent’s right to “opt out” of state tests?

School district officials are bound by an oath of office to comply with all state regulations, including testing requirements. Neither the law nor the State Education commissioner's regulations provide any legal right or method for students to "opt out" of the mandated assessments. New York does not have a statutory opt-out provision and state regulations do not permit opting out except under specific exceptions, such as those involving students with disabilities.

Q: What are the potential consequences for not taking the state exams?

State accountability mandates require each school district to have a participation rate of at least 95 percent on the state assessments in accordance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. If fewer than 95 percent of a school’s students or one or more of its subgroups of students (e.g., less than 95 percent of black students, students with disabilities, etc.) take the math or ELA assessments, the school is designated having failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) for that school year no matter how the students perform on the tests. This leads to the following:

  • After three years of missing AYP for the same subgroup, a school can be identified as a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) school. LAP schools are not considered “in good standing” and are generally subject to additional reporting and self-review requirements.

  • Existing Priority and Focus schools (schools that are identified as the lowest-performing by the state) – Those Priority and Focus schools that do not make the AYP participation target cannot be removed from this negative status. This limits flexibility for schools and teachers, and requires schools to develop improvement standards based on state guidelines even if the school may have met all of its student performance targets.

  • Schools that do not meet the participation rate criteria are not eligible to be considered for “Reward school” status, which highlights schools identified as demonstrating high performance or high progress relative to other schools in the state.

Q: What is the process for parents and guardians who choose not to have their child take the state exams?

If parents or guardians choose not to allow their child to take the mandated assessments, a parent or guardian must provide a written request to their school principal indicating their decision not to have their child take the state exams.

Q: How will principals respond if parents and guardians choose not to have their child take the state exams?

To preserve the integrity of the testing environment, principals will relocate students to another room during the duration of the exams.