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Momentum is building to administer state tests later in the year

An effort to move state tests later in the year is gaining momentum, following a state Education Department survey that shows wide support among teachers for the change. More than 80 percent of nearly 23,000 parents, teachers, and school administrators the department surveyed this spring said they favor at least some rescheduling of the tests, and the state Board of Regents could implement a change as soon as the 2010-2011 school year, a member said.

Right now, students take English tests in January and math tests in March, but critics have said the timing doesn’t give teachers enough time to bring students up to grade level. The early testing also makes it difficult to use test scores to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness.

The Board of Regents, the state board that sets education policy, requested the survey. Betty Rosa, a Regents member from the Bronx, said that the Regents are likely to propose a change in the timing of tests for the 2010-2011 school year. “All the members have been very, very united on this front,” Rosa said.

Merryl Tisch, the new Regents chancellor, did not return several requests for comment.

Pushing tests to later in the year could help efforts to measure teachers’ effectiveness by comparing their students’ test scores over time. State test scores are already being used to create the city’s teacher report cards, which grade some teachers based on how much growth their students show on tests. But critics of the report cards have said they are less meaningful because the tests come after only a few months of instruction.

One challenge is making sure that the tests can be graded fast enough to use the information for the school report cards required under the No Child Left Behind law. Regents members are already weighing several proposals for how to score tests faster, including cutting the open-ended answer portion of the tests, following a new requirement to report accountability information faster.

Moving the exam was more popular with superintendents, administrators, and teachers, more than 80 percent of whom favored giving the tests later. Only 61 percent of parents favored changing the date. A majority of respondents—65 percent—want the math test to be administered in May or June. The bulk of respondents said the ELA exam should be administered before the end of April. Only 38 percent opted for giving the test in May or June.

Lynette Guastaferro, the executive director of Teaching Matters, who protested the possibility of eliminating writing from tests earlier this year, said that testing later in the year would help efforts to measure teachers — but could also have a downside. “The downside is teaching to the test all year,” she said.

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