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NYC Education Dept. talks about more city exams — at a hearing about reducing testing


New testing requirements are in the offing for city schools—even as teachers, students and advocates blasted a culture of excessive exams at a City Council hearing Tuesday.

City Education Department officials said schools may soon be required to test students several times a year to see how they’re doing before the high-stakes, state-mandated exams arrive at the end of the year.

The irony wasn’t lost on City Council Member Mark Treyger (D – Brooklyn), who convened the hearing.

“We just had a whole discussion on the impact test have on our schools,” Treyger said, “and we’re saying we’re going to implement another one.”

Linda Chen, the city’s Chief Academic Officer, said the new city tests will be “low-stakes,” and simply give schools more data on how prepared students are before the all-important state exams come along, allowing schools to adjust their teaching if necessary. She said they will be similar to the kinds of informal tests teachers already routinely conduct throughout the year. City officials will pilot the new tests in coming months.

But Treyger questioned the need for any new exams.

“You could just call the school and talk to a teacher rather than investing in a new fancy test. You will save money, headaches, bad press,” he said.

New York already has one of the most extensive testing regimens in the country. Students take federally-required state tests in English and math from 3rd through 8th grade, then must pass five state-mandated Regent Exams to graduate.

Speakers at the hearing decried an over-reliance on testing that narrows teaching and fails to recognize students’ diverse talents.

Anthony Ramos, an original ‘Hamilton’ cast member and graduate of New Utrecht High School, said he performed poorly on state tests and likely would not have graduated without an afterschool theater program.

“One of the most talented individuals to hit the Broadway stage was labeled under-performing by our school system,” Treyger said.

City officials also said at the hearing they’re working on developing a system to analyze testing data called “Edustat,” modeled on the NYPD’s Compstat system. State officials are reviewing Regent Exam requirements and are expected to issue recommendations in 2021.