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Update from education department advises districts to anticipate a drop in 3-8 math and ELA test scores

Number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations may decrease due to more rigorous standards

March 12, 2013

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), parents and teachers of children in grades 3-8 should be prepared to see a decrease in the number of students who perform at or above grade level expectations on the state math and English language arts (ELA) assessments this year. In a memo updating district superintendents and principals about the progress of Common Core State Standards, NYSED Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz noted that the drop is to be anticipated due to the higher performance standards expected in the new tests.

The memo explains that “the change in the statewide number of students meeting or exceeding grade-level Common Core expectations is necessary if we are to be transparent and honest about what our students know and can do as they progress toward college and career readiness.” In other words, to track the “true” progress our students are making, scores from this year will not be directly comparable to scores from prior-year tests since the focus of the material has shifted to “more rigorous standards.”

A more realistic picture

The state education department cautions parents and teachers that the drop in the number of students meeting or exceeding expectations should not be interpreted as a failure on the part of the student to learn or the teacher to teach. Instead, NYSED hopes that the results of the new assessments “will give educators, parents, policymakers and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.”

For teachers, however, a drop in student performance is tied directly to their performance review, according to the new APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) and can harm the teacher’s chance of receiving a good rating. To address this anomaly, the state will provide growth-scores for those teachers with students taking the grades 4-8 ELA and math State assessments (as well as the principals of these teachers). These scores are based on student scores on the 2012-13 State assessments compared to those of students who had similar scores on the 2011-12 State tests. According to NYSED, “all educators will have a fair chance to do well, regardless of the changing rigor of the test.”

Why the changes?

NYSED expects parents, guardians and families to be fully engaged in understanding “the demands and opportunities of the Common Core… to know what to expect of [NYSED] to make sure tax dollars and local resources are effective investments that prepare children for their chosen pathways.”

Parents are encouraged to review the Common Core Toolkit for Families at http://engageny.org/parent-and-family-resources.

Learn more about the Common Core State Standards at www.engageny.org and HERE.

CLICK HERE (PDF) to view the March 2013 NYSED memo.

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