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Less Than Half of NY Students Sat For State English, Math Tests This Year

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Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, only four out of 10 elementary and middle school-aged children in New York took state math or English assessments this past spring. As a result, officials will not release 2020-21 state testing data and will instead only release district and individual school scores. 

“While educators and school-based staff rose to meet unprecedented challenges last year, everything about education was different for educators, students and parents, including the state assessments,” said New York State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa. “This year just 4 in 10 students took the tests so the data does not reflect the majority of students’ learning. State exams are just one of multiple measures of student learning used to help shape student individualized learning plans so they have the supports they need.”

In the years prior to the pandemic, about 80% of third through eighth-grade students in New York would sit for either the math or English Language Arts exams, according to the state Department of Education. But this past spring, only 41.9% of children enrolled in the third through eighth grade took the ELA exam while 39.9% took the math test.

The state education department released the results of state-wide exams to local school districts on Thursday with the warning that test results are not reflective of students’ academic progress.

“The pandemic exacerbated already existing inequities for students and this fact is most evident in our 2021 statewide assessment participation rates,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young. “The Board and the Department are committed to addressing these disparities by helping schools implement policies and practices to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom. Together we must work to ensure that all New York State students have the support they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Last year, the New York State Department of Education requested a federal waiver in administering state-wide exams due to the pandemic but were denied their petition by the Biden administration decided there needed to be some way to measure pandemic-related learning loss. As a result, the state remained legally obligated to administer state assessments but was given the flexibility to offer shortened versions of the tests and allow fully remote students the option to sit out the tests altogether.
This story first appeared on amNY.com.
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Pilot Program Proposes Using Performance-based Tests Instead of Regents Exams

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The New York State Department of Education is launching a pilot program to study new ways to change high school diploma requirements including using performance-based assessments instead of Regents examinations.

Details of the pilot program will be worked out over the next year by expert guidance, but officials hope that middle schools, high schools, and even some BOCES will choose to set up pilot sites in different parts of the state and that participating schools will learn from schools already using performance-based assessments  in order to “facilitate sustainable changes in school culture.”

The goal of reimaging high school diploma requirements, officials said, is to boost graduation rates across the state particularly and better prepare students for college and future careers.

“Too many of New York’s students – particularly our most vulnerable – are leaving high school without a diploma,” said NYSED Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “This important research will be critical in exploring the ways in which students can best demonstrate their readiness to graduate from high school and be successful in life.”

To support the pilot, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded the state education department $500,000 to help supplement research work related to the Department’s Graduation Measures Review initiative. Board of Regents members will vote on whether to accept the grant which has a funding period of two and a half years.

“We are pleased to support the Board of Regents in this effort to better understand the value of the assessments that our students undergo and the impact these programs have on what is taught in a classroom and how it is presented,” said Vice President of Carnegie Corporation of New York’s National Program LaVerne Evans Srinivasan.

“In addition to the more traditional performance measures and graduation requirements that emphasize time spent on instruction, there is room for more authentic measurements of what students know and can do, including approaches that focus on project-based instruction and the cultivation of true competency.”

The Board of Regents and State Education Department committed “to a thoughtful and inclusive review of the State high school graduation measures” in February of 2019 with the goal of  “reaffirm what it means to obtain a diploma in New York State.”

“All students must graduate from high school ready for college, career and civic engagement in order to be successful in life,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “We are at a critical moment of possibility and we must work to ensure that all NYS students have access to the opportunities necessary for deeper and more meaningful learning in school. This will require that our state assessment strategy provide information on deeper and more meaningful learning. The Board of Regents thanks the Carnegie Corporation of New York for this significant grant.”

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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120 Pop-up Vaccination Sites to Target Kids Across New York State

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Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor.

Gov. Kathy Hochul will deploy over 120 vaccination vans across to help boost vaccination rates among young New Yorkers.

“I’m appealing to people personally but I’m also hitting the road,” said Hochul, who announced the latest escalation in her #Vaxtoschool campaign in Brooklyn Tuesday morning. “We are making it easy on you.”

Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 will be able to get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shot at one of the state-run mobile sites beginning Wednesday, Sept. 23. The mobile units will continue to offer vaccinations to vaccine-eligible kids for the next twelve weeks.

Parents or guardians can set up an appointment for their child to get the vaccine at one of the pop-up sites by visiting ny.gov/vaxtoschool, texting their ZIP code to 438829 or by calling 800-232-0233.

Hochul also announced the launch of a new Instagram channel, @VaccinateNY, to educate school-aged New Yorkers and their families about the COVID-19 vaccine directly.

Officials encourage parents to ask if the site offers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine which is the only inoculation children between the ages of 12 and 17 can get.

The Pfizer-BioNTeh vaccine is the only inoculation available to children 12 to 15 years of age under an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and under full approval for kids 16 and older.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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Hochul Reveals Plans to Launch ‘Vax to School’ Campaign

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Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the state will launch a “vax to school” digital marketing campaign encouraging young New Yorkers eligible to get the inoculation to get the shot.

The campaign will include “micro sites” where families and guardians can access resources on the vaccine and where to bring vaccine-eligible students, or children between the ages of 12 and 17, to get the shot.

During a press conference about the campaign, Hochul revealed that only 50 percent of the state’s vaccine-eligible kids have gotten both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only inoculation granted an emergency authorization use from the Food and Drug Administration to be administered to children ages 12 and up.

“Only 50 percent is not where it needs to be, we have to make sure that it gets higher,” Hochul said. The governor added that she will be announcing more details and additions to the campaign in the coming weeks including schools that will host micro-sites.

The digital ad campaign will soon be unveiled on Instagram, Hochul said, and a list of pop-up vaccination sites accessible to students and families.

“It’s all about prioritizing the health of our teachers, our administrators, and our children so we get that sense of security that parents will need when they say goodbye to their child and send them off to school,” Hochul added.

Hochul said she supports a full return to in-person classes for students to prevent kids who have been learning remotely for over a year and a half from “falling behind.”

“I don’t believe remote working is an option anymore and we will continue to work against that wherever possible except for children who are immunocompromised and so we need to have an option and we need to make sure that they don’t fall behind,” said Hochul.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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Hochul Issues Universal Mask Mandate for NY Schools, Vaccination or Test Out For Teachers

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New York Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference the day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation at the New York State Capitol, in Albany, New York, U.S., August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Cindy Schultz

At her second public appearance as New York state governor, Kathy Hochul issued a universal mask-mandate for anyone entering school buildings and ordered all school personnel to get vaccinated or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing to knock down increasing cases of the coronavirus’ delta variant.

Hochul was sworn in as New York’s 57th—and first woman—governor at midnight on Tuesday two weeks after her predecessor former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace in the wake of a bombshell report finding that he sexually harassed 11 women.

During her second address to New Yorkers, Hochul promised swift action against problems facing the state, mainly, squashing the spread of the more aggressive delta variant and increasing vaccination rates among state residents.

“Priority number one: we get children back to school and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe,” said Hochul, adding that for months she has been consulting with parents, teachers, superintendents, and school board members about the upcoming return to classrooms. “ We need to require vaccinations for all school personnel with the option to test out weekly. At least for now.”

New York State United Teachers, an umbrella organization for roughly 900 unions across the state, seems to be on board with the governor’s school-related proposals.

“Gov. Kathy Hochul brings a breath of fresh air to Albany, and she already is taking decisive action to bolster health and safety in our schools. We support universal mask-wearing as part of a layered mitigation strategy that also includes robust COVID testing, contract tracing, proper ventilation and other strategies recommended by public health experts,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.  “We also support the governor’s move to require regular COVID testing for school staff who are not yet vaccinated. It’s critical that educators continue to have a voice in the implementation of vaccine requirements and other COVID policies at the local level.”

In addition, Hochul revealed that her administration plans on launching a COVID-19 testing program to make testing for “students and staff widely available and convenient” as another means of mitigating the spread of the delta variant.

Details on a statewide testing policy for school districts will be announced later this week, Hochul promised. “We need partnerships with all levels of government and I’m working now on getting this done,” Hochul added.

The order comes a day after the United States Food and Drug Administration granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval for use on people 16 years of age and older which some officials hope will boost confidence in the vaccine making it easier for institutions and employers to issue vaccine mandates.

The full approval replaces the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine FDA’s previous emergency use authorization.

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all Department of Education employees including teachers and principals must get at least one dose of the vaccine by Sept 27, in order to lower the chances of delta spreading in schools in the fall. Between 70 and 80% of all New York City public school teachers and principals have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to City officials.

The move placed New York City in the ranks of Chicago and Los Angeles which have also issued vaccine mandates for public school staff.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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NY Education Department Recommends Cancelling Some School Activities Due to Covid-19

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The New York State Department of Education is recommending schools in areas with high Covid-19 transmission cancel all high-risk sports like wrestling or basketball and extracurricular activities like choir and band unless all participants are vaccinated, according to new health and safety guidance.

The new guidance for reopening schools comes roughly a week after the New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker revealed the department would not issue health and safety guidelines for schools across the state reopening next month. 

“At a time when schools are preparing to reopen and the COVID positivity rate is increasing, we must ensure our schools and districts have the most up-to-date resources and mitigation strategies available to keep our children and school staff safe,” said NYSED Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Reopening amidst a pandemic for the second consecutive year is truly a daunting task. Our hope is that this guide, coupled with the input of local health officials will help the state’s education community as they prepare for September.”

NYSED’s health and safety guidelines on masking, social distancing, COVID-19 testing and screening are reiterations of current guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Encouraging schools to cancel or host high-risk sports and extracurricular activities online is one of the few instances the state department veers from CDC-issued guidelines. 

NYSED explains in the guidance that the close contact between players in sports like wrestling and the increased exhalation that takes place during activities like choir pose a greater risk of spreading the virus. 

Under current CDC recommendations, students, or any other person, should not participate in close contact or indoor sports with people they do not live with when COVID-19 cases are “extremely high” and hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus are increasing across the country.

“If you choose to play close-contact or indoor sports, reduce your risk by getting vaccinated when a vaccine is available to you, wearing a mask, playing outside, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds,” the guidance reads.

This article first appeared on amNY.com

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SUNY Students Must Be Vaccinated Before Returning to In-person Classes This Fall

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SUNY and CUNY students will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before being allowed back onto campuses for in-person classes this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

“Let’s make a global statement. You cannot go back to school in person in September unless you have a vaccine,” Cuomo said. “That will be a major motivator to get the vaccine. If you have to get the vaccine by September why wouldn’t you get it now.”

Long Island’s SUNY schools include SUNY Farmingdale, SUNY Old Westbury, and the two state-run community colleges: Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College. Many Long Islanders attend SUNY schools in upstate New York, as well, and will now need the vaccine before traveling to school.

Schools like Columbia University, Pace University, and New York University announced earlier this year their students are required to get inoculated against the virus before returning this fall, and Cuomo encouraged more private colleges and universities to follow suit. Long Island’s private colleges have not yet said whether they will require their students to get the vaccine.

Cuomo did not say if teachers or faculty are also required to receive the vaccine in time for the fall semester. A SUNY faculty union said they welcomed the governor’s announcement but important details still need to be worked out such as Board of Trustees action and how colleges will deal with students who chose to not get vaccinated for religious or health reasons, President of United University Professions Fred Kowal told amNewYork Metro.

New York state’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.4 % with officials reporting 2,016 hospitalizations due to the virus and 27 deaths, in the last 24 hours. 

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

-With Briana Bonfiglio

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Advocates Want More Time for High Schoolers ‘Aging Out’ to Graduate During Pandemic

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Over 100 advocacy groups are urging New York state to allow high school seniors struggling to graduate and are at risk of aging out this school year, a chance to earn their degree in the 2021-22 school year, according to a letter sent to New York State Department of Education officials earlier this month.

Normally, New York students can attend high school and work towards a degree until the end of the school year in which they turn 21. But advocates are calling for the state to grant 21-year-olds at risk of not earning their high school degree by September more time due to numerous disruptions to the academic year caused by the pandemic.

Apart from disruptions caused by forced school closures, the challenges of remote learning continue to be overwhelming for many students and their families especially for those without reliable internet access or who have struggled to get a laptop or iPad.

Last year, NYSED canceled multiple Regents exams in order to prevent students from traveling amid the pandemic and this year scrapped most of the standardized tests and uncoupled them from high school graduation requirements given the dearth of challenges students have faced with remote learning. But advocates argue the state needs to do more to allow as many students as possible to earn their degrees.

“This is a matter of basic fairness,” reads a letter from the group Advocates for Children to the NYSED Chancellor Lester Young and Board of Regents Commissioner Betty Rosa. “Students turning 21 during the 2020-21 school year should have as much time to complete this year’s coursework as their younger classmates. In the face of the incredible hardships caused by COVID-19, districts across the State have had to adjust to grading policies and timetables, including giving high schoolers additional time to complete coursework required for graduation. Many students need extra time.”

The small group of students who take longer than four years to earn their high school diploma is mostly made up of English Language Learners or students with disabilities and are disproportionally students of color.  Advocates for Children estimates that every year roughly 2,000 to 3,000 students across the state take six years to graduate high school.

“For many of these kids this has really been a lost year,” said Noah Gotbaum, a member of the citywide council for special education. Gotbaum’s 17-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum, has had tremendous difficulty with remote learning, he says, and will most likely need a few extra years to make for lost learning during the pandemic. “All kids need social contact and especially kids with needs…they need contact not only with their peers but also with their teachers to receive services that just don’t translate over Zoom.”

In addition to extending the amount of time 21-year-old students have to earn their degree, advocates are also calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to pass a budget allowing schools to receive all available COVID-19 funding, in addition to state support, so that schools serving 21-year-old students can continue to do so. Many districts helping high schoolers over the age of 18 have not received funding during the pandemic, according to the Advocates for Children.

NYSED is currently “reviewing the issue and recognizes the impact the pandemic has had on some of the states’ most vulnerable students who will age out”, according to department officials.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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NY Board of Regents Votes to Cancel Most Regents Exams

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The New York State Board of Regents voted Monday to cancel all Regents exams for the rest of the year except for four federally mandated exams in English, math, earth science and living environment.

Students will also not be required to take the exams in order to receive their diplomas, the board decided.

“As we continue to see a global pandemic impact our schools and students in every corner of the state, the Board and I are determined to complete this school year in a manner that protects the health and safety of all of New York’s children,” said Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr.

The board previously petitioned the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to waive all federally mandated exams in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Biden administration declined to approve a blanket waiver for standardized tests but encouraged schools to administer shortened or modified versions of the exam or extend examination windows. In response, NYSED requested an individual waiver for standardized tests from Washington as is still awaiting a response.

“While we were disappointed by the USDE decision not to grant blanket waivers for state assessments, we are confident that the regulatory amendments acted on today and other assessment-related actions by the Department provide for the flexibility necessary to meet federal requirements while ensuring the well-being of those in our school buildings,” Young added.

As a result of the vote, if the USDE denies the waiver, only four Regents exams will be administered in the month of June and students in grades 3-8 will only need to sit for one federally required test in English and math test while only one session of the written test component for sciences tests will be administered for those in grades 4-8.

“The Department continues to engage with USDE in regard to finding the best path forward in offering state assessments for the children of New York,” said NYSED Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “In order to inform these discussions, we are engaging with stakeholders across the state to gain insight on the local approaches to student assessment.  The regulatory amendments advanced today provide fairness for our students; however we remain hopeful that USDE will provide the necessary waivers to allow our educators to remain engaged in the important work of fostering a safe and healthy learning environment for each child in New York state.”

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

NY Required to Give Some State Exams, May Cancel Some Regents

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School districts in New York State will still be required to administer standardized tests this year despite the pandemic, but officials are working to waive the state exams graduation requirements and cancel some tests altogether.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced states would not be given a blanket waiver for federally required exams but schools could administer shorter or remote versions of the exam as well as extend testing windows.

New York State Education Department officials responded by saying they were “disappointed” in the decision but said the federal government “made the right call” in stating that no student should be made to come to school to take an exam and agree that exam results would only be used to measure student learning.

As a result, NYSED plans to propose a number of modifications to state exams during its next Board of Regents meeting in March including waiving federally required Regents Exams as a graduation requirement and canceling all non-required Regents Exams.

“USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning,” said NYSED spokesperson Emily DeSantis in a statement. “Given these circumstances, the Department will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held.

New York state is required to give annual standardized tests to third though eighth-grade students and high school students are required to pass five Regents exams in a math, science, social studies, and English but state officials last month requested a waiver from the federal education department to exempt third through 12th-grade students from taking state exams this spring.

Officials argued that amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic standardized tests could not be “safely, equitably and fairly administered to students in schools across the state,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. said in a statement.

Last year, NYSED officials canceled June, August and January 2021 Regents exams due to the pandemic and allowed some students scheduled to take Regents in order to fulfill the graduation requirements to forgo exams.

Many teachers who have largely opposed administering the exams during the pandemic supported the state’s proposal.

“In a year that has been anything but standard, mandating that students take standardized tests just doesn’t make sense,” said president of New York State United Teachers Andy Pallotta.  “As the educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, and they are especially unreliable right now. We need to ensure that our students who have been hit hardest during the pandemic receive the support they need. Sizing up students with inequitable and stressful exams is not the solution.”

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

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