State test results reflect newly adopted scoring
Districts around the state receive lower test scores for students taking English and math exams
July 28, 2010—Earlier today, the New York State Education
Department (SED) released test scores for the grades 3-8 math and English
language arts exams that were administered to students in May 2010. The
results reflect newly adopted procedures from SED that raise the scores
students must earn in order to be considered “proficient” in a subject.
Under the state’s testing system, “cut scores” are used to classify students into one of four performance levels. Students at Level 1 are below standard; those at Level 2 meet the basic standard; pupils at Level 3 meet the proficiency standard; and those at Level 4 exceed the proficiency standard. SED has just raised the cut scores for Level 3, meaning students must achieve at higher levels than ever before in order to be considered proficient.
How does the scoring change
Guilderland Central School District—like districts throughout NYS—realized a dip in student test scores because of these new procedures. Overall, fewer students were considered “proficient.”
“The state has essentially raised the bar for all students who take these exams,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Michael Marcelle. “Given this, fewer Guilderland students met or exceeded the proficiency standard and so our overall district scores appear lower.”
For example, in the 2008-09 school year, 95 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at or above the Level 3 learning standards on the mathematics assessment. Based on the results released by SED this morning, only 80 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at or above Level 3 on the math assessment in the 2009-10 school year. Similarly, students in grades 3-8 taking the NYS English language arts assessment also saw about a 15 percent drop in the number of Level 3 or above test scores—from 90 percent in 2008-09 to 73 percent in 2009-10.
Despite lower test scores district-wide, Guilderland is still well-above the state average when it comes to overall testing results.
“We want to be sure our parents and community members understand how this new scoring system affects individual student test scores and overall district results,” said Marcelle. “Undoubtedly, these lower scores may potentially raise concerns for some students and parents but it is important to note that the results released by SED today do not reflect the ability of Guilderland students to learn or Guilderland teachers to teach.”
In the days and weeks ahead, district administrators will be taking a closer look at the grades 3-8 testing results to analyze individual student scores, identify trends, and compare how Guilderland students would have fared on the assessments under the previous scoring procedures.
“The district has a number of remedial services for students in need of academic support,” said Marcelle. “As they always do, our teachers and staff members will work with the children and their families to identify the best course of action to support the success of all students.”
Part of a larger trend to
raise student achievement
SED’s change in the cut scores for the grades 3-8 math and English language arts scores are just one part of a larger effort in New York to raise student achievement.
In a report released by the Board of Regents last week entitled: "A New Standard for Proficiency: College Readiness," (PDF) the Regents used a variety of academic performance statistics to justify this change, saying, "The Regents raised (academic) standards a decade ago. Now the Regents are embarking on a new era of reform to improve student achievement and better prepare graduates for college."
Education Commissioner David Steiner and his colleagues have been traveling around the state over the last few weeks to not only forewarn of an expected drop-off in test scores, but also to share details on the state’s new push toward tests that are less predictable and more demanding.
In a press release on the SED Web site, SED Senior Deputy Commissioner John King said, “The data shows that schools responded to the assignment they were given—they worked hard to help students achieve standards as measured by the state tests that were being given at the time. And more students did, in fact, pass those tests. The problem is that those exams didn’t sufficiently test students’ abilities—the bar was set too low. But we’re changing that now. It’s time to end the annual debate over whether our tests have become easier and to put to rest questions about what it means to achieve proficiency in New York.”
In the same press release, Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch added, “For the past several years, we have seen more and more students scoring ‘proficient’ or better on our state tests. At the same time, however, their performance on the NAEP exam— the gold standard in testing— has remained essentially flat. We haven’t been testing the right things in the right ways. ‘Proficiency’ on our exams has to mean something real; no good purpose is served when we say that a child is proficient when that child is not. So we’re improving our assessments by raising cut scores, making the exams less predictable, testing more areas, and making the tests longer. But more rigorous exams are only one piece of the Regents broader reform vision— a vision that includes a more challenging curriculum, better training for teachers and principals, and a world-class data system. In short, we are lifting the bar to ensure that New York remains at the very forefront of the national effort to raise standards.”
For more information, please visit the SED Web site.