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New standards mean test scores plummet

— According to this year’s math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests administered by the state of New York, less than a third of students in grades three through eight are performing at grade level.

The scores, released Wednesday, Aug. 7, represent a significant drop since last year, but State Education Commissioner John King insists there’s no cause for alarm.

“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 results we've announced are not a critique of past efforts; they're a new starting point on a roadmap to future success.”

This year’s exams mark the first time exams incorporated so-called Common Core learning standards (CCLS), a more rigorous benchmark approved by the Board of Regents in 2010. The requirements, which have been adopted in states across the country, are aimed at helping children acquire sophisticated reasoning skills. The goal behind these standards is to move the schools away from rote learning to a writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving skills. Tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 4; levels 3 and 4 indicate proficiency. Statewide, 31.1 percent of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard, while 31 percent met or exceeded the math proficiency standard. Last year, those numbers were closer to 55 percent, but state education officials said the tests are so different that they shouldn’t be compared.

“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. We have just finished the first year of a dramatic shift in teaching and learning. Teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards have worked extraordinarily hard to implement the Common Core. With the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers — the best teaching force in the country — will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century.”

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