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New era of curriculum and assessment

Grades 3-8 test scores decline as anticipated during first-year testing on Common Core standards

Results to set new baseline for measuring performance

Earlier this year, the New York State Education Department (SED) predicted a drop in assessment scores in English language arts and math for grades 3-8 in 2012-13 resulting from the launch of new, more rigorous assessments based on the Common Core Learning Standards.

On Wednesday, August 7, SED released the results of the grades 3-8 exams that students took in April, and as expected, scores across the state dropped. On average 31 percent of grades 3-8 students met proficiency standards in English language arts, while 30 percent were deemed proficient in math.

SED officials and school district leaders around the state emphasize that the decline in the number of students meeting the proficiency level in no way indicates that students are not learning or teachers are not teaching. 

This year’s grades 3-8 math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests evaluated students based on the new, more difficult Common Core Learning Standards, a set of educational standards developed by education, business and state leaders from across the nation.

In early August, Commissioner of Education Dr. John B. King, Jr., cautioned New York schools that scores on these assessments were “expected to be significantly lower” than the previous year largely as a “result of the shift to assessments that measure the Common Core Learning Standards, which more accurately reflect students’ progress toward college and career readiness.”

The new curriculum requires students to learn—and teachers to teach—new skills, concepts and different strategies for approaching questions and solving problems. In addition, many concepts are being taught to students at a different time of the year or in earlier grade levels than in the past.

Under the new Common Core-aligned system, New York’s students are scored according to the following scale:

bullet graphicLevel 4: Student excels in Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) for his/her grade level.

bullet graphicLevel 3: Student is proficient in CCLS for his/her grade level.

bullet graphicLevel 2: Student is not proficient in CCLS for the grade level (partially proficient, but insufficient).

bullet graphicLevel 1: Student is well below proficient in standards for the grade level.

Watervliet test results

As expected, Watervliet schools experienced the state’s predicted drop in scores as fewer students achieved a level 3 or 4 during this first year of the newly revamped state assessments.

In Watervliet, 20.8 percent of grades 3-6 students and 17.75 percent of grades 7-8 students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard. Meanwhile, 26.1 percent of grades 3-6 students and 12.8 percent of grades 7-8 students met or exceeded the math proficiency standard. Bear in mind, because this year’s tests measure student performance based on a completely new and different set of educational standards, test scores cannot be compared with results from prior years. SED officials instead say the 2012-13 results will establish a “new baseline in student scores.”

“I want to assure parents the test results do not reflect the efforts made by students, teachers, and building leaders working in our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Caplan. “I am proud of our students for trying their best on the new assessments, and I am equally proud of our teachers for the time and effort they have invested in professional development and in aligning curriculum and instruction to the new learning standards. As our students and educators transition and adjust to the new Common Core standards, we fully anticipate that performance will improve.”

As in the past, teachers and school leaders will look at the data and student results to personalize instruction and services that will help students acquire the knowledge and the skills necessary to master the Common Core.

Parents of students in grades 3-8 last year should soon receive letters about their children’s performance on the state tests. Any parents with questions about their children’s results should contact their children’s school principal or guidance counselors for the 2013-14 school year.

“It is crucial that we all work together – educators, administrators and parents – to help our students meet the demands of the Common Core and graduate ready for colleges and careers in the 21st century,” Dr. Caplan said.

Learn more about the Common Core and grades 3-8 state assessments.

Key points to remember about the new test scores

bullet graphicNew York is among the first states to align its math and ELA curricula and tests with the new Common Core Learning Standards.

bullet graphicIt will take time for curriculum and instruction to catch up with what the new tests measure.

bullet graphicThe goal of the new standards is to help ensure students have the skills, knowledge and experiences they need to be successful in life (i.e., to ensure they are college- and/or career-ready). The result is that students are being asked to learn new skills, concepts and different ways of approaching questions and solving problems.

bullet graphicBecause of the changes (in both the curriculum and the tests), New York State Education Department (NYSED) officials—and educators across the state—have anticipated a drop in student scores on the exams. These test results cannot be compared with those from previous years because both the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves are different. The results will be the new baseline from which we measure progress in the future and any dip in scores should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance.

bullet graphicAs in the past, these assessments will not factor into a student’s grades for the year.

bullet graphicTest scores will be used to help determine which students may need extra help and the best ways to provide them additional academic support.

bullet graphicNo new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority schools based on 2012-13 assessment results.

bullet graphicParents of students will soon receive information about their children’s performance on the state exams. It is important to remember that the scores reflect new, more challenging exams and standards, meaning it is realistic to expect a drop in scores.

Parents with questions about their children’s results should contact Elementary School Principal Terri O’Brien or Jr.-Sr. High School Principal Ryan Groat for more information.


Quick links heading

State Education Commissioner letter
to parents

Read a letter from NYSED Commissioner John King, Jr. about NYS grades 3-8 assessments (PDF)

NYS Grades 3-8 Test results for Watervliet

View complete grades 3-8 test results for Watervliet schools (PDF)

Parent & Family resources for interpreting test results

Resources for parents and families to better understand the state assessments and score report

Parent’s Backpack Guide to Common Core State Standards

The backpack guide will help you understand how the standards will affect your child, what changes you will see and what you can do at home to help your children the classroom.