New York State Tests Tutoring: 3rd – 8th Grade In-Depth

What are the New York State Tests?

The New York State Tests occur from third to eighth grades. They are sometimes erroneously called “the ELAs,” but the ELA (English Language Arts) Test is only a part of the larger test. The larger test includes an English Language Arts Test, a Math Test, and a Science Test in grades 4 and 8. The ELA test is given in early spring and the Math in late spring. If your child is in 4th or 8th grade and is taking the Science Test, it occurs in late spring, after the Math test.

The tests are largely multiple-choice, but the ELA test also includes short-answer questions based on reading passages. Some schools take the tests on paper and others use computers. Check with your school to see which format your student will use.

How are the tests scored?

The tests are scored on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the lowest (“well below proficient”) and 4 the highest (“excels in standards”). Please see the following link for a sample score report for English Language Arts and this link for a sample score report for Math.

Why are the tests important?

The tests’ importance varies from year to year, with 4th and 7th grades being the most important in terms of middle school and high school applications, respectively.

When students apply to middle schools, 4th grade scores along with factors such as grades and attendance are taken into consideration for admissions decisions. Fifth grade scores are not applicable because those grades are released after middle school applications are due. Similarly, when your child applies to high schools, you will submit the 7th grade scores because 8th grade scores won’t have been released.

Talented and gifted schools and programs require specific scores in order to be considered for admittance. Most schools, however, do not have specific score cutoffs. If you have questions about a specific school, please refer to their website.

A lot of people are opting out – what is the argument for taking the tests?

Standardized testing is controversial and some parents object for many reasons, but a significant number question whether the tests accurately reflect intelligence, aptitude, and ability and they therefore object to scores being tied to teacher evaluations. Some parents feel the test is overly long and taxing. In recent years, approximately 20% of students opted out of the tests.

There are also good arguments for taking the New York State tests, including that they provide useful information to the state as to how schools are performing; they produce meaningful data about children’s strengths and weaknesses; and the scores enable students to gain admissions into highly rated middle and high schools.

I’ve heard about a lot of changes to the tests over the years. Has anything changed?

In 2016, students took the tests for the first time with “unlimited” time. This means that the student can take however long he/she wants on a test in one particular day as long as the student is “working productively.” This is a boon for those students who do not perform well under time constraints or who have learning issues that require extra time.

Also in 2016, a new company (Questar) has begun making the tests. New York State made this change after numerous parents and some educators complained about errors on the previous Pearson tests.

How can tutoring help my child prepare for the New York State Tests?

Next Level Learning’s personalized approach to tutoring allows us to teach standardized exam material in a way that relates to the curriculum at the student’s school. This is an important tactic because
students start from a place in which they are comfortable with the material and build from there. Standardized exams generally create pressure and tension for younger children and it’s important to
keep students calm and able to fully utilize their faculties under pressure. Anxiety can be a significant factor in why students don’t perform well on standardized exams, which makes it vital for them to know what to expect with regard to the material and strategy.

At the conclusion of each session, our instructors compose a session report that provides a summary of the session including successes, challenges, expectations going forward, and homework (if any is assigned). When parents have feedback or a suggestion about the next session, they can simply reply to the session report and our director will follow-up with the instructor. Session reports are a valuable communication tool that allows parents to stay informed and involved without having to necessarily speak to their child following each session, which can sometimes exacerbate tension and anxiety.

Contact Next Level Learning for more information about how our NYS Test instructors can help your child achieve his or her greatest potential on the New York State Tests.

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