The results for the 2016 grades 3–8 English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments are out, released earlier this month by the New York State Department of Education (NYSED). Test marks for Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk show both growth in proficiency, as well as areas that need support. However, NYSED cautions the 2016 proficiency scores are not directly comparable to 2015 ratings, as changes were made to the exams and testing environment this year.
Although 2016 tests differ from previous years, the method for converting students’ scores on the tests into a scoring range of 1 through 4, remains the same. These scores are meant to indicate a student’s degree of proficiency in the Common Core standards for the grade level. Scores at levels 3 or 4 indicate proficiency (4 means that a student excels in the standards), while levels 1 and 2 indicate a student is below proficiency.
Scores in RCS grades 3-5 ELA exams show a 5 percent increase in proficiency from last year, bringing RCS level with the statewide 2016 proficiency average of 38 percent. Data from the math exam in grader 3-8 place RCS at a 51.5 percent proficiency, well above the 39 percent state average. The 2016 scores do, however, represent a slight 3 percent dip from 2015.
Growth of 7 percent at the local level on the 6-8 math assessment also places RCS above the state average. Forty-six percent of RCS students scored a 3 or 4 on the exam, 7 percent higher than the state average of 39 percent. The 6-8 ELA scores however, dropped from a proficiency rate of 32 percent in 2015 to 18 percent in 2016, falling below the state average of 38 percent.
While the content of the 2016 and 2015 tests are considered comparable and similarly rigorous, changes to the exams included: starting with a new test vendor with a contract that required teacher involvement in evaluating and selecting assessment questions for use on the spring 2016 exams; reducing the number of questions on all grades 3-8 assessments; eliminating time constraints on the exams to give students as much time as they need to complete the tests; and publicly releasing more test questions than ever before and earlier to help educators inform instruction and improve student learning. These changes are part of a multi-year process to make improvements to standards, curriculum and testing. The tests are slated to change again next year under a new testing company, Questar.
These changes are not the only factors that make test results difficult for RCS district officials and teachers to compare. Approximately 22 percent of students statewide chose not to participate in the tests; RCS nearly doubled that with a 43.5 percent test refusal rate. The middle school had a nearly 50 percent student refusal rate.
“As we look at the data from the state assessments, we are aware that it does not give us the full picture,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Brian Bailey said. He notes the state assessments do not factor into students’ grades but function as a tool to help the school measure the effectiveness of curriculum.
“We have to take a look at the full picture and create an educational plan based on many different assessments, of which the state tests are just one,” Bailey said. “The exams, along with assessments students perform in and out of the classroom on a daily basis – written, verbal and observed – all factor in to how we can determine where students need additional supports and help us target professional development to meet student needs.”
Parents can expect to receive information on their children’s individual performances on the assessments in September.