Thursday, 29 August 2013 00:00
Long Island students in grades three through eight saw their New York State test scores plummet by 40 percent compared to last year, but education administrators are telling parents not to fret because this year doesn’t compare to last year.
“The New York State Education Department released the results of the ELA and math results for the grades 3 through 8 New York State testing that your child/children took in the spring,” said Roslyn School District Superintendent Dan Brenner in a letter to school district parents. “In a previous email to you, I made you aware that the State had informed the local school districts that this year’s scores would be dramatically lower than in years past. They stated the old exams did not correlate to student’s progress toward being ‘college and career ready.’ In fact, the State is now reporting that, on average, school district scores statewide dropped about 32 percent from last year.
“Historically, Roslyn has achieved passing rates on these exams in excess of 90 percent,” the letter continued. “Therefore, a 30-plus percentage drop can be viewed as alarming. The Commissioner of Education has written a letter that I have attached where in which he writes: ‘I understand these scores are sobering for teachers and principals. It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity.’
In the weeks to come we will be doing a full analysis of the data that was provided to us from the State, making changes where it seems appropriate. However, I want to emphasize that what we provide in Roslyn has been and will continue to be a first-class education. Our students are reading and writing at higher rates than ever before and achieving success in the math and science that truly makes us proud. Our college acceptance rate continues to rival any public school in the nation and it is in this context that we will further examine the scores that came from the State. Finally, we will be speaking at great lengths with you in the future about the validity and reliability of these exams and how much value we should be placing on any single measure.
“We will reach out to you again in the near future with your individual children’s test results,” the letter concluded. “Please be prepared for a possible drop in their score from last year. Again, these scores are not a reflection of how your child is suddenly becoming ‘less smart,’ year over year, but instead it is a function of a new testing system with a new norm.”
The scores, officials said, create a new benchmark for measuring student performance going forward. This test was the first based on the “common core learning standards,” developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices in conjunction with state education officers, and voluntarily adopted by the NYS Board of Regents in 2010.
“The world has changed, the economy has changed, and what our students need to know has changed,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning.” The first cohort of students required to pass Common Core-aligned Regents exams for high school graduation will be the class of 2017.
Because the common core standards are more rigorous, the drop in scores was not unexpected. Earlier this month, Commissioner John King sent a memo to school district superintendents, urging them to use the new scores judiciously when assessing teachers and students.
—Joe Scotchie contributed to this article.