By Abigail Sonnenberg
As the 2018-19 school year draws to a close for Ellicottville Central School students, the time has come for the dreaded arrival of New York State testing.
For those who are unaware, these tests assess the abilities of students in grades 3 through 8 in areas of English language arts and math. The fourth and eighth grade students also take a science test.
These tests are meant to help students, teachers and parents alike discover the students’ areas of strengths and weaknesses, but there is little incentive for the students themselves to apply themselves to tests like these.
First, they do not affect the students’ grades or standings within schools, so it is easy to think of them as pointless and regard them with disdain.
When asked for her opinion on the tests, sixth grader Sophia Sundeen said she “thinks they’re somewhat useless. Trying to prepare is stressful, especially if it does nothing for our grade.”
She’s certainly not the only one to feel this way; many students can be found in the hallways making fun of the tests, joking about “bombing” the tests purposely since they have little to no effect on the students themselves.
The grading system for these tests is different from the standard used in schools. Along with their actual grade on the test, students are also placed in a percentile to show their ranking in the state.
For many this ranking is useless, but for others it’s a strong motivator to score high. When I was still in elementary and middle school, that percentile ranking mattered more to me than the actual score on my test, and I know other students still carry the same mindset.
Just the other day, I passed a group of middle schoolers in the hallway who were talking about the NYS tests and comparing their percentiles from last year. I know things haven’t changed much in the few years I’ve had the chance to take the test.
For others, the test doesn’t matter nearly as much. Now with the choice to opt students out, many parents choose to have their children spend time in the library instead.
As reported by Erich Ploetz, Middle and High School principal at the board meeting the week before testing began, “Groups are a little small right now, but we’re going to keep everything relatively the same.”
The chance to opt a student out of a test — that holds no power over their grades — does not exist without reason. More parents these days are opting their students out because the alternative, which is sending the kids to the library to read or do homework, offers a more productive use of the students’ time.
It’s difficult not to have an opinion on these tests. They’re beneficial for teachers, but not so much for students who are motivated by a change in grade.
Because these tests are so often perceived as meaningless, only a few truly apply themselves as opposed to the many students who see no purpose in applying themselves to achieve a high score.
Many movements exist today to either correct the tests or end them completely, but as of the writing of this article no changes to these tests have been planned.
For now, the NYS testing system will continue on as it has every year.