School test scores drop sharply
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Johnson said he was disappointed not with the scores or with students’ performance, but with the state for giving the tests in the first place. The tests are used by many districts to determine which children need extra help, and in which subjects, but the Rockville Centre district uses different measures. Under new state teacher review guidelines known as APPR, the scores will also be used to assess teachers.
According to Johnson, however, King sent an email last week to all of the state’s superintendents, telling them not to use the scores for anything. “It should not be incorporated into APPR, nor should it be used to inform decisions about whether teachers should or should not be here next year, or should or should not get teacher improvement plans,” Johnson said. “So we’re living right now through a time that I can only describe as a theater of the absurd.”
He has been a vocal opponent of the tests since they were administered in April, believing that they did not properly assess what children had learned. “Never at the end of the day could you, as a result of what you saw with a child’s actual performance on these tests, know what they know and what they don’t know,” Johnson said in April.
The data that the tests provided the district, Johnson said, is “uninterpretable and unusable.” He gave an example: in eighth grade, Rockville Centre students take the algebra Regents exam, which is usually administered in ninth grade. This year, about 95 percent of students passed it. The eighth-grade state math exam is supposed to determine how prepared students are to take algebra, yet only 39.5 percent of them passed that exam.
“To hell with these scores,” Johnson said. “They do not matter. They’re not informing us in any way; they’re not giving us any new information. In fact, what they’re doing is serious damage. Kids who had a [Level] 3 last year and ended up with a [Level] 1 this year, how do I tell them they can’t read, when in fact we know they can?”