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State officials trim, but not gut, high school testing program

One thing is sure, even in an uncertain economy: Students will still take tests.

New York State made that official last week when it finalized some cost-cutting changes to the state’s high school testing program but left most exams and test dates intact.

Back in March, state officials issued a dramatic proposal to gut the high school testing program. The state could save $13.7 million annually, they said, by eliminating exams in all subjects except math, reading, and science; ending January and August test dates used to help students graduate; and no longer translating test materials into foreign languages.

After the state budget provided for part of the Education Department’s funding request, officials ultimately decided to enact a scaled-down set of test changes. Students will no longer take a social studies exam in grades 5 and 8, and students who study German, Hebrew, and Latin won’t be able to take a state exam in those subjects.

But the vast majority of the Regents exams required for graduation will remain in place, at least for now. In a memo to district superintendents and school principals, Deputy Education Commission John King warns that unless the state finds more money to fund its testing program, the cuts might be back on the table as early as next year.

One big change that did go through was an end to the practice of re-administering just parts of tests to students who need only a small boost to pass, a practice called “component retesting.” The state has been spending $1.6 million a year giving component retests to just 9,000 students.

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