Aug 19, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The state education department Thursday released the results of the 2014 English Language Arts and math test scores for students in grades 3 to 8, and Cazenovia Central School District remained a high achieving district, scoring more than 20 percentage points above the state average in both subjects.
While Cazenovia’s continued high scores is good news for the district, the results were a mixed bag, with math scores having improved by more than 7 percent, but ELA scores declined by nearly 5 percent.
“One of the things that is important to do with assessment results is to drill down and find out what they mean on a student-by-student level, which is more important than district-wide and by grade level,” said Superintendent Matt Reilly. “We started out higher and we are outpacing [other districts] in terms of improvement. Our numbers are strong but there’s still plenty of room to get better.”
This year’s assessment tests were the second year to be based on the new national Common Core Learning Standards, 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.
This year, for the first time, assessment results are presented based on the performance of all students who took an exam last year (2013) compared with those same students in the following year (2014) at the next grade level, according to a release from the state department of education. This “matched students” approach focuses on student learning and provides more useful data than an approach that compares the performance of one year’s students at a particular grade level against the next year’s cohort of students at the same grade level.
Statewide, scores improved in both math and ELA — 35.8 percent of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded the math proficiency standard, while 31.4 percent of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard, according to the assessment results. Last year, state proficiency scores were 31.2 percent in math and 31.3 percent in ELA.
“The test scores show that students form all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch. “This is still a transition period. It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in test scores. But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state.”
In Cazenovia, the number of students who took the tests and scored proficiency level or higher remained above the 50 percent mark, as the results were last year. In math, 59.83 percent of students in grades three through eight scored proficiency level or higher, a 7.53 percent increase from the 52.3 percent at that level last year. In ELA, 51.83 percent of students in grades three through eight scored proficiency level or higher, a 4.47 percent decrease from the 56.3 percent at that level last year.
“We have work to do in both ELA and math, but based upon what I’ve seen so far this summer and the teachers’ level of caring, we’re certainly going to get there,” Reilly said.
The assessment scores are not indicative of the education level of every student in each grade level, however, since they only reflect the results from the number of students who actually took the test — not from the total number of students.
Opposition to the state testing has increased during the past year, with parents, teachers, school administrators and political officials calling it unfair, unnecessary and a federal and state intrusion on local authority. By law, parents have the right to opt their children out of taking the tests.
In 2013, 100 percent of Cazenovia students participated in the state-mandated ELA and Math tests for grades 3 through 8. In 2014, on the other hand, more than 100 students opted out of the two tests — 38 in ELA and 69 in math, according to Cazenovia district numbers.
While the tests do not count towards a student’s grades or overall academic record, the results are used to evaluate teachers and administrators. More importantly for district, however, is that test participation requirements are tied to state aid to districts, and districts that fail to receive the required 95 percent student participation rate must write a “district improvement plan” to submit to the state education department to explain how they will increase participation in 2015; a failure to reach 95 percent next year would put the district in jeopardy of losing Title 1 funding.
The Cazenovia Board of Education is aware of and monitoring the amount of district students who are opted out of the testing, and has previously discussed how it can encourage more participation next year. The board had a work session on Monday, Aug. 18, which occurred after press time, and will have its next regular monthly meeting on Monday, Aug. 25, where the subject of the state assessments and student participation is likely to be discussed.
For more information on the 2014 state assessments or specific school district results, visit nysed.gov.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.