October 2, 2023

After coronavirus disruptions, NYC is assessing students in reading and math: What parents need to know

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New York City public school students are taking universal screening assessments during the 2021-2022 school year to determine their level of learning after 18 months of interrupted instruction amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In April, city officials announced the Recovery Budget with investments in education. Part of those investments included $500 million for intensive academic recovery, including: establishing baselines with assessment data; core English language arts and math instruction; tutoring; teacher planning time.

Here’s a look at how the city plans to assess students this school year, and what it means.

Why is the city assessing students’ learning?

The city Department of Education (DOE) is requiring every public school to use a screening tool to assess students’ skill levels after several learning disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021-2022 school year marks the first time that every student is in their classroom for full-time in-person learning since the pandemic shuttered schools in March 2020.

The low-stakes diagnostic screeners give teachers a snapshot in time of where a student is in their learning. The DOE noted that the assessments are not tests, and don’t have any impact on a student’s grade.

What will the screeners do?

The universal screeners allow schools to keep track of student progress by helping them identify where students are in learning and their strengths.

The data can be used to adjust instructional plans, support lessons and identify additional resources that students may need, including extra one-on-one or small group support.

Who will be screened?

Literacy and numeracy screeners will be given to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

According to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union, these will be a key part to measure learning loss that occurred during the first 18 months of the pandemic.

When will the assessment be given?

The assessments will be given to all students in English language arts and math three times throughout the school year — in the fall, winter and spring — to inform instructional next steps for teachers focusing on core instruction as a priority, according to the DOE’s 2021-2022 Instructional Principles.

The fall screening is already underway, according to the UFT. It began on Sept. 27, and will be completed by Oct. 22 — giving schools enough time to administer the assessments throughout that time period.

The last week of October is reserved for makeup tests for students who missed the screenings.

How are students assessed?

Students in kindergarten through second grade will be tested on their literacy skills in individual 15-minute question-and-answer sessions, according to the UFT. These students will be assessed through Acadience, an in-depth diagnostic tool for literacy skills that assists educators in figuring out the reasons why a student may be struggling to make reading progress.

Information provided by this assessment helps educators made informed decisions to better target instruction for struggling readers. It aids teachers in determining which types of support a student needs, the specific skills that should be the focus for instruction or intervention, and which instructional strategies should be implemented.

During the literacy screen, students are asked questions one-on-one about letter naming fluency, nonsense word fluency, oral reading fluency and more.

Students in grades 3-12 English language arts, and for all K-12 students in math, will use screening tools by MAP Growth. These assessments will be computer-based.

The MAP Growth exam is a computer adaptive test, which means every student will get a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. As the student answers a question correctly, the next one gets more difficult. If a student answers incorrectly, the questions get easier.

Most students take less than an hour to complete it, but it’s not a timed exam.