NYSAA: A Blackbox of DOE Malpractice

Teachers with alternate assessment students have been given their students’ expected NYSAA scores this week, and the outlook is grim.

Since a pilot last year, the math and ELA portions of the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) have shifted from paper to digital. These are the only portions of the assessment that are for stakes.

During the pilot year, teachers were allowed to go in and modify the expected scores that were generated for their students. If the system decided that a particular student should be able to earn a 3, teachers could dispute the projection and say that the student would only be able to earn a 1. In this way, teachers were able to set more realistic goals for their students, and many schools fared well overall on the exam.

This year, schools have just been handed their expected scores for NYSAA students and many teachers are in shock. The scores for the vast majority of students are simply unattainable. In one school we know of, 6:1:1 students have many of the highest expected scores — ranging from 3 to 4 — and we know from last year’s scores — ranging from 1.0 to 2.7 — that these students cannot possibly reach their goals. Likewise, 8:1:1 and 12:1:1 students have similarly high scores.

Under the new online NYSAA testing system that the UFT has agreed to, there is no transparency as to how expected scores are generated. But it seems that last year’s high scores on the pilot have set the bar impossibly high. And now teachers have no input as to where the bar should be set.

Likewise, under the new system there is no transparency as to how final scores are calculated. Teachers are not told what the tests will expect of students until the day of testing begins, and then they have only four weeks to teach the material and test students on it. September to March is one long wasted opportunity for teachers to prepare for testing. How the computer scores the students is also a mystery. Students are given five sub-tests, each one generated based on their performance on the previous sub-test. Should students do good on all the sub-tests? Bad on the first sub-test, then good on the rest? Bad on the first three and good on the last two?

To make things even more unfair, all of the cluster teachers and teachers without NYSAA students on their roster (it’s a test taken every 3 years) are tied to the school-wide scores.

Teachers are being asked to sign off that they accept the expected scores. Some are considering either refusing to sign or attaching rebuttal letters.

If any other alternate assessment teachers are effected by this, please email: quinnzannoni@gmail.com

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