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July 20, 2016
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JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



Education Department Announces Successful Pilot of Optional Computer-Based Field Testing

More than 60,000 field tests completed on computers in spring 2016 test window

Video Available

The 2016 administration of computer-based Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and math field tests ended successfully, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced today.  Feedback and suggestions from this year’s administration are now being gathered and will inform decisions for next year.  More than 800 schools voluntarily participated with more than 60,000 students completing the field tests via computer. 

"We need to ensure that all schools have what they need to help their students make the transition to computer-based testing," said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa.  "The resounding success of the pilot of this spring's field tests provides us with information that is essential to determine where districts might need help with infrastructure improvements or have technology needs to help them better serve their students.  We have to use every tool available to continue to improve assessments and this pilot is doing just that."

“While traveling across the state, I heard again and again that assessment results aren’t getting back to teachers or parents quickly enough,” Commissioner Elia said.  “I am committed to meeting the needs of 21st century learners and computer-based testing makes it possible to get results into the hands of educators and parents earlier than ever before and has the potential to make our assessments even better instructional tools.” 

Right now, the Department is engaged in gathering feedback from the computer based testing (CBT) pilot in a number of ways:

  • Regional Focus Groups: Districts that participated in CBT field test administration participated in conference calls with Questar and NYSED.  The groups were made up of teachers, district IT directors, principals, district administrators, and Regional Information Center professionals who supported the work.
  • CBT Support: The field was encouraged to email its feedback to .  We have received numerous emails, and have read every one.  We are currently sorting and analyzing data to reveal trends. 

Department staff will continue to support districts and schools in the transition to computer-based tests as part of the long term strategy to move toward the use of innovative, technology enhanced items and a quick return of scores to educators, students, and their parents.

While computer based testing participation was optional, NYSED strongly suggested that every district consider committing at least one school in the district to administer computer-based field tests in spring 2016.  This will help schools and districts understand the requirements of online assessments and begin to plan for a full rollout in the future.  During the pilot, ELA & math field tests in Grades 3-8 were administered using both paper and computer. 

Field testing is a critical part of the test development process in order to ensure the validity and reliability of the New York State Testing Program.  Our goal is to require the least amount of testing necessary to build and administer high quality New York State assessments that provide accurate information about our students' achievement.  Field tests contain questions that may only be used on New York State tests and benefit only our students and schools.  Because of financial assistance we received from the State, this school year at least 25% fewer schools and students were asked to participate in elementary- and intermediate-level field tests as compared to the last school year.

During a three week, flexible field test window, participating computer-based field test schools administered the field tests in:

  • One grade
  • One content area
  • Approximately, one 40-minute session

This transition is part of the five year contract with Questar Assessment Inc. to develop the State’s 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and math assessments and to provide all schools with the option of administering these tests on computers.  Questar trained over 900 district and school representatives in January.  A computer-based question sampler was made available in every grade in ELA and math using previously released items and a system readiness tool allowed schools to run a check on devices to determine if they met minimum technical requirements.