Students in grades three through eight demonstrated a decline in proficiency in English and math this year, according to test results released by the New York State Education Department on July 26. That doesn't necessarily mean their performance declined, though. The decline was a result of the state upping the standard of what it means to be proficient by raising the cut scores on tests.
"We are doing a great disservice when we say that a child is proficient when that child is not," said Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch in a statement.
Superintendents from school districts across the county and the state are saying the change is unfair to their students because in many cases, students scored just as high this year as other years, but they were deemed not proficient because of the new cut scores.
"It's real important to note this didn't happen overnight; all of a sudden our kids are achieving standards and then nobody is. It's about how it's measured," said Joseph Dragone, Ballston Spa superintendent. "I'm all about higher standards and support the notion that we're raising the standards, but I don't necessarily agree with the process it went through this year."
Shenendehowa Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson said the changes by the state are unfair and that "changing the rules after the game is over" doesn't reflect what students are learning, according to the district.
"The simple fact that SED can just manipulate the cut scores to show increased failure, shows that it is not a reflection of learning," said Robinson in a statement. "Further, the utter chaos due to the change in scoring practices places parents and schools in a tailspin trying to ascertain what the tests really demonstrate."
According to NYSED, cut scores for English and math assessments were set according to new proficiency standards "redefined to align them with college-ready performance." Cut scores are used to group students in four levels of performance. Students must score within level 3 or 4 to meet proficiency standards and those scoring in level 1 or 2 typically receive extra help. The official break down is, Level 1 are not meeting learning standards; level 2 are partially meeting learning standards; level 3 are meeting learning standards; and level 4 are meeting learning standards with distinction, according to information from NYSED. Raising the cut score for level 3 means that fewer students scored at that level.