The New York English Language Arts and Mathematics tests (ELAS)
Your memories of elementary school might be filled with playground games, spelling bees, circle time and arts & crafts. One striking difference from your own fourth-grader experience in comparison to your nine-year-old is that your child will be spending weeks in intensive preparation for a three-day-long standardized test given in 4th grade, then later on in 8th grade.
The New York English Language Arts and Mathematics tests (ELAS) for elementary grade four is taken by roughly two hundred thousand children annually. The fourth-grade Math and English exams are each a mixture of multiple-choice, short open-ended, and long open-ended questions. The English exam also contains a reading comprehension part where the teacher reads out loud a passage on which the children take notes and then write two short answers and one extended answer.
You and your child should familiarize yourselves with the test
structure. Then, your child will not be confused or frustrated by the test format and will instead approach the three-day exams with
ease and confidence.
Although these fourth-grade tests cover only math and reading, a little history will help put the test in perspective. In 1995 the New York State Education Department created a detailed outline of the curriculum requirements for all subjects from pre-kindergarten to high school. These massive volumes languished in obscurity, however, since they did not correspond to the types of questions being asked on the statewide tests. A year earlier the Educational Board of Regents had approved a plan to revise the tests, and so the task of combining the detailed curriculum with the new test format fell to Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills. Mr. Mills made testing at all grade levels the focal point of his agenda, toughening the academic standards and changing the format of the tests from a purely multiple-choice affair to a three-day, diverse-question setup. The first wave of students who took these new tests showed the effects of the higher standards: 52 percent of all New York fourth-graders failed the English exam in. In New York City the toll was even greater, as only 33 percent of all Big Apple students received a passing grade. These massive failure rates made headlines statewide and, understandably, caused widespread concern among parents and educators. Some critics claim the tests were too hard, others that the students were poorly prepared. The debate continues.
One thing seems clear: low scores do not mean these tests will be made easier or eliminated. The emphasis on standardized testing at all levels is growing stronger, not weaker. With "accountability" the pervasive theme in national education, more and more states are setting academic standards and then rewarding or punishing schools depending on whether they achieve these standards.
Much emphasis is being placed on these two tests for both the child and the school district. The state ranks all schools based on how well their students fared on the exam. Schools that do badly may have superintendents, principals, or teachers fired. Under performing schools land on the state list called Schools Under Registration Review and may be closed if improvement is not seen on the tests and in other academic areas.
As for the individual fourth-grader, a plan is in place to require all students who fail the English portion of the test to take remedial instruction, For instance, the New York City school board strongly urged sixteen thousand fourth-graders who failed the English test in 1999 to take summer school classes to improve their skills. Mills has proposed that all students who fail be required to retake the test, but this plan has not yet been enacted. Currently, each school district must decide whether students who fail the fourth-grade tests can be promoted to the fifth grade, so the fate of the thousands of students who failed in 1999 will be determined by geography.
Many of you are already aware of how important the fourth-grade tests are to your son or daughter future, which is why you are reading this passage. While your child's teacher is probably already doing some exam-related work in the classroom, nothing is better for your child than tutoring from someone she trusts, a good candidate being yourself. It is recommended to get a book containing the facts, tips, questions, activities, and advice you will need to help your child succeed on the fourth-grade tests. Then you will know what skills are being tested on the Math and Reading tests, gives you test-taking strategies to make taking these tests easier, and tells you exactly how to teach your child these skills and strategies.
By analyzing and discussing the test in detail, the book not only provides you and your child with the basic knowledge she needs to excel on the test, but also to instills a sense of confidence through familiarity, since feeling confident and prepared for these three-day affairs is a key factor in how a student fares on the tests.
If you do not have the time or experience, you may consider relying on experienced Amlon tutors. You may call us to schedule an appointment with an Amlon tutor who will be able to fully prepare your child for this important milestone.
||Recommended books can be found at your local library.
For the Grade 4 Test Preparation Amlon Recommends the Spectrum Series by McGraw Hill academic publishers
For General Test structure information, but weaker in content material
Spectrum Test Prep, Grade 4
Spectrum Test Prep: Grade 5
Parent's Guide to the New York State 4th grade test