NYS Test results reflect changes to proficiency standards
For general information and to learn more about the new proficiency standards, please visit the NYSED webpage
Principal Mambretti and Dr. Brad Gibson, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, reported the test results at the October 6 Board of Education meeting. Dr. Gibson's report can be viewed here.
On July 28, 2010, Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Education Commissioner David Steiner released results from the state's 2010 Grade 3-8 assessments in Math and English (ELA), and announced adjustments to the tests' "cut scores." Cut scores are minimum scores to achieve particular scoring levels, i.e., if classification requires a score of 75 out of 100 on a particular exam, then the cut score would be 75.
In the adjustment, the New York State Education Department raised the scores students must earn in order to be considered “proficient” in a subject (level 3 or higher). The State asserts that its exams have become too easy and predictable, therefore ineffective in forecasting the success in high school and beyond. According to the NYSED, the intent of raising the bar for “proficiency” with the higher cut scores for these tests better aligns with college-ready performance.
The new proficiency standards are based on a review of research that analyzed how the grade 3-8 state tests relate to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam; how the state's eighth grade Math and English tests relate to the Regents exams; how performance on the Regents exams relates to SAT scores; and how performance on the Regents exams relates to first-year performance in college.
As a result of raising the bar for what it means to be proficient, fewer students met or exceeded the new Mathematics and English Proficiency standards in 2010 than in previous years. Across Grades 3-8 statewide, the majority of students, 53% in English and 61% in Math, met or exceeded the new Proficiency standards this year. By contrast, in 2009, 77% of students met or exceeded standards in English and 86% of students did so in Math.
Recently, in letters to parents that accompanied student performance reports on 2009-2010 NYS English/Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics tests, Middle School Principal Mark Mambretti explained that these mandatory assessments have two equally important purposes. First, the data is given to parents to inform them of an objective, standardized level of mastery their child has in these two core areas. Second, as a district, we analyze this data to drive developments in our curriculum and instruction.
Like school districts across the State, East Aurora's assessment results declined based on this adjusted scoring. Yet the raw performance (before the change in cut scores were factored in) for East Aurora's students was stable across grade levels and, in some cases, better than the previous year. Mr. Mambretti noted that the change in proficiency levels was based solely on the State's new benchmarks and was not a reflection of a student's progress. However, as a school committed to ever-increasing results, Mr. Mambretti see the change to the cut scores as a challenge to becoming an even better school. “The state has set a new definition of excellence,” he says, “and we not only accept but welcome the challenge.”
Mambretti continues, “We use the data the State tests give us to foster growth in two ways: The first is that we look at individual students and see how we can help each of them become even more successful. The second, more ‘global' approach is to look at our curriculum content and instructional methods to see how we can become even more effective.”
Those students who currently fall below the line of proficiency (receiving a Level 1 or 2 on a State assessment) are mandated to receive or be reviewed by the school intervention team to be considered for Academic Intervention Services (AIS) in reading or math as a monitored student (specialist work with classroom teacher) or direct service student (specialist works with student via a push in or pullout service, or combination of both. Mr. Mambretti notes that the interventions for these students are individually designed to help them grow in their skill to meet the State's definition of proficiency.
With the more global approach, East Aurora Middle School curriculum coordinators Nina Arndt (ELA) and Lisa Barron (Math), report that teachers will be analyzing the 2010 NYS assessments in detail in order to develop educational strategies aimed at both improving test scores and addressing any weaknesses in our curricula. "As both state assessments will be changing over the next few years, this analysis will be an ongoing process," said Mrs. Arendt. "In addition, both groups will be examining the new Common Core State Standards and working to align ELA and Math curricula to the new standards."
Commissioner Steiner reported that new, higher cut scores have resulted in fewer students scoring at a ‘Proficient level' state-wide. "While that is sobering news," he said, "it should cause all of us – the State Education Department, schools, administrators, teachers, and parents – to work ever more effectively together to ensure that all children in New York State get the knowledge and skills they need."
This year the NYS ELA test will be administered to students in grades 3-8 on May 4-6, 2011. The grade 3-8 Math test will be administered May 11-13. Mr. Mambretti encourages parents to help the school in preparing students by not scheduling vacations during this time, to make sure students are well rested and eat a good breakfast on testing days.