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Syosset-Jericho Tribune - Schools

Scores Tumble On New Standardized Test

Educators assure parents

“new baseline” will pay off

New York State test scores in grades three through eight plummeted on Long Island by 40 percent this year, but education administrators are telling parents not to fret. It’s not a sign of decline in either teachers or students, but reflects results of a completely new test 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 state Board of Regents in 2010.

“There has been much conversation and attention to the state’s change in the curriculum,” Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Streitman said, who explained that the NYSED transistioned all the districts in NYS to what curriculum they had been using in the past to what is now called the Common Core.

“By the state’s admission, Common Core is a dramatically more difficult curriculum in ELA and in math in all of those grades,” Streitman said.  “In addition, the state had revised the state tests to reflect a harder curriculum.”

According to Streitman, NYSED had also changed what is refered to as “cut scores,” which is the number of questions you must answer correctly in order to obtain proficiency - saying “these two factors are very big in that they converged onto school districts all at the same time.”

The Syosset School District was listed with an average 60 percent in English Language Arts (ELA), 66 percent in math; and the Jericho School District with an average 70 percent in ELA, and 72 percent in math.  

The drop in scores was not unexpected. The assessments were the first to measure the Common Core Learning Standards, and the percentage of students deemed proficient is “significantly lower” than in 2011-12.

According to the New York State Department of Education (NYSED), in grades three through eight at the Syosset, 506 out of 2,982 students tested in ELA did not meet state proficiency standards in 2012 (17 percent of students did not pass); and 1,208 out of 3,008 in 2013, increasing to 40 percent.  In math, 242 out of 2,997 in 2012 (eight percent) and in 2013, 1,030 out of 3,026, increasing to 34 percent.

In Jericho, 170 out of 1,298 for ELA in 2012 (13 percent), and 373 out of 1,285 in 2013, increasing to 29 percent; and in math, 77 out of 1,306 (5 percent), and 354 out of 1,269 (28 percent).

Earlier this month, King sent a memo to school district superintendents, urging them to recognize that this is the first year of the new assessments and recommending judicious use. In addition, NYSED is providing guidance for districts to ensure that students are not negatively impacted by scores on the new tests. The first cohort of students required to pass Common Core-aligned Regents exams for high school graduation will be the class of 2017. The Board of Regents has asked the Department to adjust its guidance on Academic Intervention Services as well.

Streitman said that last year, Syosset, as well as all other districts, tried to prepare their students for “what we knew the new curriculum and tests were going to be,” however unfortunately, “we did not have an opportunity to get a full sense of what the new exams would be like.  We worked towards modifying a curriulum in anticipation for something we hadn’t seen.”

Streitman said NYSED did provide information “generally at first,” as to what the new curriculum would be, and last Spring, gave more specific information about curriculum changes.”

In 2012, the Syosset School District switched to a new math program titled “Go Math,” which Streitman said “reflects the new expectations for the Common Core math, and we’re working on taking similar actions for ELA.”

Streitman said the district was not surprised at their scores, saying: “The state had said to use that most districts will anticipate a 30 percent decline - that 30 percent is pretty similar to what we experienced.”

Going forward, Streitman said the district will continue to look at curriculum modifications, in terms of how to best prepare their students for state tests.

Superintendent of Jericho School District Hank Grishman was not available for comment.

King attributed the change in scores to the shift in the assessments to measure the Common Core Standards, which “more accurately reflect students progress toward college and career rediness.”

“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century,” King said. “I understand these scores are sobering for parents, 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.

“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.

King said these new results are consistent with other indicators of the college and career readiness of New York State students including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), New York State student performance on the SAT and PSAT, and college and career ready scores on New York State’s high school Regents exams.

The Syosset Jericho Tribune will continue coverage on both Syosset and Jericho School District updates.