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Still Facing Exam Pushback, New York State Moves to Cut Testing Days

The state at the epicenter of the so-called opt-out movement is once again revamping its testing procedures.

Under recommendations expected to be approved by New York state's Board of Regents today, reading and English/language arts exams will be slimmed down to just two days instead of three.

In 2015, the state reduced the number of questions each student had to answer; in 2016, the state moved to untimed tests, saying it would reduce stress on anxious students.

All of those changes align to a 2015 state plan outlining revisions to teachers' evaluations; revisions to the Common Core State Standards, which underpin the student tests; and revisions to the exams themselves.

The state hasn't yet released the test-refusal rate from this past spring's administration, so it's unclear whether any of those changes have helped assuage parents' concerns. In prior years, test refusals or opt-outs topped 20 percent.

These changes may seem like no big deal, but from a technical standpoint, each of them affects exactly what the exams measure (the "construct," for you testing geeks). Usually, also this requires a state to convene a new panel to set the cutoff score on the exam, which costs time and money. It may also mean the revised test will need to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education, which conducts peer reviews of the exams to make sure they're technically sound.

And every time this happens, it becomes more difficult to interpret the results over time. As The New York Times notes, it's not possible to make direct comparions from one year to the next given these changes.

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