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State officials ask feds for leniency as standards are raised

As New York State grapples with improving its standardized tests, officials are asking the federal government for more time to make changes before schools are labeled as struggling.

In an interview on WNYC this morning, host Brian Lehrer asked State Education Commissioner David Steiner whether more difficult tests would mean more failing students and thus an increasing number of schools on the “In Need of Improvement” list. Schools land on the list if students’ test scores don’t increase by a certain amount for two years running. If the list grows, more schools could be closed or restructured.

Acknowledging that harder tests will be a new burden for schools, Steiner said the state was asking the federal government to withhold judgement until the changes are in place:

What we’re asking them to do is give us a year or two to factor in the major change, he said. We’re doing the same with academic interventions — that schools will have to give to so many more students — so that schools don’t have a huge unfunded mandate.

If the U.S. Department of Education agrees to go a bit easy on New York schools, it’s unclear whether that would mean a temporary halt to “In Need of Improvement” designations.