Yesterday, the New York state education department announced it was releasing 75 percent of the multiple-choice items from its 2016 common-core-aligned math and English/language arts tests, and that it was doing so earlier than usual to give teachers a chance to review them before the end of the school year.
For the previous two years, the department had posted just half of the test questions for the public to see, and did so at the end of the summer.
It’s typical for states and test providers to keep some test items private so that they can be reused on future assessments. New York in particular has gone back and forth on the issue of releasing items, doing so consistently for years and then stopping completely in 2010 to prevent teachers from “teaching to the test.” The state began publishing items again after a backlash from the teachers’ union.
In addition to publishing three-quarters of the multiple-choice questions, New York is now also releasing 100 percent of the constructed-response items (i.e., those that require written responses). And for the first time, it’s allowing parents to view their students’ answers. Districts will decide on the protocol for showing parents the answer booklets.
Districts will also receive their instructional reports this week, which marks the first time they’ll get those results before the school year is up.
Planning for Next Year
In a letter, the commissioner of education, MaryEllen Elia, wrote that the released information “can help educators to make informed decisions about professional development and curriculum and plan for the upcoming school year. And, because test data and questions were released earlier, districts and schools will now have several weeks before the end of the school year to use the information.”
The questions are now available on the EngageNY website, which is hosted by the department.
New York has arguably faced more resistance to testing recently than any other state. In 2015, more than 20 percent of students in New York who were eligible to take the math and ELA tests opted out of them. To try to ease anxiety about testing, the department reduced the number of questions on the tests and ended the use of time limits.
Elia said the practice of publishing test items will continue down the road, with some caveats. “In the coming years, our goal is to release more information to you and get it into your hands earlier. I have heard this request from many of you,” she wrote in the letter. “However, it is important to remember that we cannot release everything right away. It takes time to score the exams and process the data. And, to maintain exam validity and reliability, we have to be purposeful about the items that are made public.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.