State English language arts assessments begin Wednesday

BUFFALO — New York students will sit for the first round of annual Common Core testing this week.

English language arts assessments for public school students in grades 3-8 start on Wednesday. Math testing occurs next month.

The state has reduced the number of testing days for each subject from three days to two and has made other changes in response to opposition that has led large numbers of students to opt out of the high-stakes assessments in recent years.

Opposition increased to new Common Core standards after they were introduced in New York state's public schools. New York state adopted the standards in 2010. The state Education Department admitted the original roll out was flawed after holding hearings throughout the state in the face of widespread criticism and a political firestorm. Local educators, while generally supporting the goal to raise academic standards, were critical of the early implementation of Common Core. They said the roll out was rushed, with students taking the exams before instructors were equipped with the proper teaching tools to prepare them for testing.

The number of students opting out of the tests has varied among school districts, but reporting in 2015 and 2016 showed that more than 200,000 students were opted out by parents and guardians those years. That represented about 20 percent of the total number of students scheduled to take the tests.

Supporters, including the group High Achievement New York, are urging parents to have their children take the tests, calling them a tool to track student progress and identify and close achievement gaps.

Others, including Allies for Public Education, oppose the tests because they say the tests force schools to focus too much on test prep.