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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Little change in Common Core test scores

Little change in Common Core test scores

Scores on this year’s Common Core-based English and math exams taken by students in the Capital Regi

By the numbers

Want to see how students in your local school district performed on the most recent round of math and English tests? Read the complete list of results from the state Education Department.

Scores on this year’s Common Core-based English and math exams taken by students in the Capital Region remained mostly flat compared to last year.

Statewide, 35.8 percent and 31.4 percent of third- through eighth-graders scored at or above average on the math and English exams, respectively. Those percentages were also seen in the Capital Region, except in the city of Schenectady and some rural districts.

More than half of the students who took the exams in the Schenectady City School District scored very poorly. Nearly 60 percent scored at the lowest level on the English exam, and 55 percent on the math exam. Exam scores are ranked from lowest, Level 1, to highest, Level 4.

“More kids at Level 1 is a significant issue for us,” said Laurence Spring, superintendent of Schenectady schools. “There are a couple of grade levels that essentially stayed flat; increases were seen in eighth grade. I have some concern, because we need to pick up every single year. We need to get every grade level to be proficient.”

About 28 percent of students received scores at Level 2 on the math exam. Scores on the English exam were a little higher, with 30 percent of students at Level 2. Spring said that’s not good enough.

“Level 2 is supposed to represent approaching proficiency, but they’re not there yet,” he said. “Kids who are getting a 2 probably are on track for doing OK by those measures.”

According to the state Education Department, students at levels 2 and above are “on track for current graduation requirements” and students at levels 3 and above are “on track to graduate at the aspirational college- and career-ready level.”

This year marked the first time the Education Department delivered results using a “matched student” approach, which compared the performances of the same students from one year to the next, rather than matching results by grade level. The scores are considered for student placements and annual teacher evaluations.

In Schenectady, the number of students at Level 1 for the English exam increased by 5 percent compared to last year. The opposite was seen for the math exam, with 5 percent of students receiving higher scores.

That same trend was seen statewide, with more students scoring at or above average on the math exam than the English exam.

“Students statewide made significant progress in math. Unfortunately, the results were not as strong in [English language arts],” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “We still have a very long way to go, and there is still much more to do.”

The percentage of third- through eighth-graders statewide who scored at or above average on the math exam increased by 4.6 percent this year — from 31.2 percent to 35.8 percent.

But students who took the English exam did not score much better compared to last year. The percentage of students who scored at the proficient level rose 0.1 percent to 31.4 percent.

“We are focused on growth, whether or not students are making progress over time,” state Education Commissioner John King said. “The results look at the same kids over time … so that we can focus on growth. Students statewide are doing significantly better in mathematics.”

In Niskayuna, more than 30 percent of students across all grade levels performed above average — levels 3 or 4 — on the English and math exams.

An average of 35 percent of students in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District scored at or above graduation requirements, and about 30 percent of students in Saratoga Springs also scored above average on the exams.

In the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District, about 32 percent of students scored poorly — Level 1 — on the English and math exams. But 36 percent of students received proficient scores that meet their current graduation requirements.

Not many Gloversville students scored above average on this year’s exams, but 36 percent received an average score. Nearly half of third- through eighth-graders districtwide did poorly, with fifth-graders receiving the lowest scores in English.

Spring said to increase scores in the future, he is focusing on building strong literacy programs for students in kindergarten and first grade. He said learning at that age is most important.

“If they don’t learn it by the age of 6, the ability for them to understand keeps shrinking at a rapid rate,” he said. “We have to do a lot of intervention work and then go backwards and try to plug in those holes for them.”

Earlier this month, the state Education Department released 50 percent of English and math exam questions and answers for educators and parents to review, 25 percent more than was released last year. The increase in materials released to the public comes after teachers argued they lacked information from the exams to help improve their curricula.

State lawmakers and parents have also knocked the Common Core, saying the standards involve a large number of rigorous and confusing testing.

The scores are roughly unchanged compared to 2013, remaining in the 30 percent range. That’s a drop of more than 20 percent compared to 2012, however, before the more difficult standards were implemented.

About 38,000 students statewide opted out of this year’s English exam, and nearly 45,000 chose not to take the math exam, according to data from New York State Allies for Public Education.

Spring said Schenectady faces many challenges with the Common Core learning standards, particularly because students in the district are wrestling with poverty and health issues.

“These kids bring obstacles to school every day, and they need help,” he said. “We’re not as far along as we would like to be in this process, but I would characterize these scores as a slight increase, and that we’re headed in the right direction.”

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