COLONIE – Results from state standardized test scores are mixed for the town’s two largest school districts.
In South Colonie, the percentage of students testing at the proficient level in English Language Arts dropped four points to 35 from last year to this year, while the percentage of those testing at the proficient level in Math dropped two points from 50 to 48.
In neighboring North Colonie, the percentage of students considered proficient in ELA jumped three points to 56, but the number considered proficient in math dropped three points to 62 percent from 2016 to 2017.
“We did OK but we can always do better. We dropped a little bit on both but that can be explained by year-to-year variations in the testing itself,” said South Colonie Assistant Superintendent Tim Backus. “We don’t have all the numbers yet, but we will compare our results to similar districts and then we can take a look at where we are down and where we can do better.”
While he said a more significant, meaningful comparison would be to look at test score trends over three or five years, the state Education Department is warning parents and observers not to compare 2016 and 2017 test scores with those of as recent as 2015 because the ever evolving methodology changed too much from 2015 to 2016.
Joe Corr, the superintendent in North Colonie, said the tests represent “a snapshot in time” but would have liked to have seen his district’s math scores edge up along with the ELA scores.
“The tests are just one piece of data that give us an idea of where the kids are doing well and where we need to do some work both with individual students and in overall programming,” he said. “They are a piece of data that informs instruction, one piece, and not the end all be all.”
Statewide, the combined percentage of students in grades three through eight that scored at the proficient level in ELA exams edged up 1.9 percent to 39.8 percent. The percentage of students who are proficient in math, according to the statewide combined math exams, jumped to 40.2 from 39.1 percent.
“As I’ve always said, testing is just one piece of the puzzle tounderstand how students are performing,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “And that’s why our draft ESSA plan takes a more holistic approach to accountability – an approach that looks at multiple measures of school and student success. This allows us to continually evolve and adapt so we can ensure that our systems are culturally responsive and place an emphasis on educating the whole child.”
There are differences between elementary schools within the respective districts, but neither school official thought a one- or two-year test result was cause for any red flags or alarms.
Both districts followed the state trend of less students opting out of the exams after an initial negative response to Common Core and concerns over tying standardized testing to teacher evaluations.
Statewide about 21 percent of the students opted out of taking the standardized exams in 2015 and 2016, however it dropped two points this year.
About 18 percent of the students opted out in South Colonie, a 2 percent drop, Backus said. While Corr said about 13.5 percent opted out of math and 12 percent opted out for ELA, which, he said, is down slightly.
“I think parents are getting more accustomed to the state tests and the state has backed off tying the results to teacher performance,” Corr said.
Backus said there were 20 percent of students in eighth grade who opted out and just 9 percent in third grade which indicates, he said, the newer families and newer kids are less concerned with the controversial issues associated with standardized testing.