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Reporter's Notebook

August 10, 2013

N.Y. test scores prove to be a lightning rod

The recent release of state test scores on English Language Arts and math tests for students in grades 3-8 brought a flood of comments from organizations with an interest in the process.

This was the first test based on a new curriculum —Common Core — that has been adopted by more than 40 states. The new tests were the cause of a sharp decline in the scores, and many officials said they should serve as a new benchmark instead of comparing the results to previous years.

New York State School Board association executive director Timothy Kremer said: “It’s important to recognize that student achievement did not go down; instead, standards went up. The state realigned exams to more closely mirror the knowledge and skills that students will need to succeed after high school. We can use this year’s results for comparisons in future years.”

While school boards continue to support more rigorous learning standards, “we all must acknowledge that there were implementation issues surrounding the state adoption,” Kremer said. The timeline was accelerated compared to other states, which caused problems because some teachers did not have adequate time to prepare to teach to the curriculum, and the scores reflect that, he said. Also schools began implementing these reforms during a time of budget cuts, he added.

“We are confident scores will improve through collaboration between the state, school districts and educators,” Kremer said. However, the state Education Department must play a significant role in helping schools succeed, he said. That means finding resources for high-quality curriculum and test development, and academic intervention services, as well as providing professional development technical assistance.

New York State Council of School Superintendents executive director Robert J. Reidy said the results reflect a change in state standards this year — not the efforts made by students and teachers working in schools.

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