State ups testing standards

Proficiency rates suffer under new guidelines

School districts, parents and students across the state were dealt a surprise when it came to the results of a spring round of standardized testing from students grades three through eight due to new standards adopted by the state Education Department.

The changes shift the proficiency boundaries that define what test scores are adequate for a college-bound student, but don't have any direct impact on this round of testing or the scores.

The adjustments to the cut scores were made by the state Board of Regents, which oversees standardized testing in the state. Officials in the Education Department say the proficiency levels " "not meeting learning standards," "partially meeting learning standards," "meeting learning standards" and "meeting learning standards with distinction" " were no longer good indicators of how those students would fare after graduation.

For example, many students who placed in the third tier, "meeting learning standards," ended up needing extra help at the college level.

"It's time to end the annual debate about whether our tests have become easier and to put to rest questions about what it means to achieve proficiency in New York," said state Education Department Senior Deputy Commissioner John King in a statement.

In practical terms, the adjustment to "proficiency levels" has little impact on how well students are doing on the exams. In this latest round of testing, for example, students in the Bethlehem Central School District posted scores that largely lined up with those recorded the year before. In other words, it was a pretty average year.

But for BC, the most recent round of testing in grades three through eight saw the percentage of students meeting proficiency levels dropping across the board, from the upper 80s and lower 90s to as low as the mid-60s.

The changes will impact how administrators and other officials judge the performance of schools and students.

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