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New York Releases First Set of Grade 3-8 Test Scores Under Common Core

by Michele Kelley on August 7, 2013
NYSED: This year’s results should not be compared directly with prior year’s

On Wednesday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released results from the assessments that students in grades 3-8 took in the spring of 2013 – revamped tests that were, for the first time, based on the new Common Core Learning Standards.

The release included district and school results on the math and English language arts assessments. As expected, the changes in curriculum, testing, and scoring practices that came with the state’s adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards resulted in a significant decrease across the state in student proficiency levels compared to prior years. However, state officials have long warned this would be the case and cautioned against any direct comparison of the scores with previous years.

Instead, state officials say that the 2012-13 scores provide a new baseline for student performance based on the changes taking place in classrooms across the state and country. These changes are based on the national effort to better prepare students for college and careers, which has included the implementation of the new “Common Core” curriculum in New York and most other states.

“I want to make it very clear that the change in test scores… does not mean that students are learning less or that teachers and schools are performing worse than last year,” State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said in a letter to parents. “Proficiency rates – the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards – on the new Common Core assessments cannot be compared with last year’s proficiency results since the old scores are from an old test based on the former standards. This is a new beginning and starting point that will provide better, clearer information to parents, teachers, and principals about what our children know and are able to do.”

The new Common Core curriculum requires students to learn – and teachers to teach – new skills and concepts, as well as different ways of approaching questions and solving problems. Similarly, many concepts are now taught to students at a different time of the year or at a different grade level than in the past.

Because the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves are different, state officials have said that any decrease in student scores from last year should especially not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance.

‘A new baseline’

As in the past, students’ scores on the tests are converted into a scoring range of 1 through 4. Scores at levels 3 and 4 indicate student proficiency (4 is mastery), while levels 1 and 2 indicate a student is some degree below the proficiency level for his or her grade level.

On the 2011-12 state tests, the percentage of Broadalbin-Perth students who were deemed proficient on a given assessment ranged from 47 percent to 68 percent, depending upon the grade and subject (ELA or math). Statewide, this range was between 50 percent and 69 percent.

As expected, the proficiency levels for Broadalbin-Perth – and districts across the state – are lower for the 2012-13 state tests. In Broadalbin-Perth, the percentage of students deemed proficient on a given assessment ranged from 10 percent to 43 percent, depending upon the grade level and subject (ELA or math). Statewide, this range was between 28 percent and 36 percent.

“Taken at face value, these numbers are startling and somewhat discouraging,” said Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson. “But because of the significant changes that came with the switch to Common Core, we have to look at this year’s scores as a new baseline. We can’t compare them directly to last year’s scores. That would be like switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius: The number dropped, but the room didn’t get any colder.”

What do the results mean for our schools and students?

State leaders have emphasized the fact that these new standards will ultimately strengthen instructional programs. In Broadalbin-Perth, the aggregate results will be valuable as a barometer of the district’s efforts to implement the new Common Core curriculum.

The scores on the state assessments do not factor into student’s grades. Historically, scores on state assessments have been a prominent factor in determining if a student requires formal remedial instruction, known as Academic Intervention Services (AIS). The state is currently reviewing AIS guidelines in light of the changes to the curriculum and testing, as well as the results of the 2012-13 assessments.

District leaders said that while schools and parents naturally put importance on a given year’s test results, the larger purpose of education is making sure that students have the skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to be successful in life.

“Our teachers and administrators will continue to work diligently to teach the skills that are measured by these exams through thoughtful and engaging lessons and activities – not merely test preparation activities,” Tomlinson said.

More information & parent resources

State release of 2012-13 grade 3-8 assessments

Common Core resources for families
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