Fifth-graders at the William L. Buck School honed their English Language Arts skills on Monday in preparation for the state assessments, which begin on April 16.
When students sit down to take their mandated English Language Arts assessment the third week of this month, and then math a week later, fewer will pass than last year. That’s the message from the New York State Education Department, which recently sent out a memo to school officials, warning them to expect a drop in scores.
The predicted decline is due to the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards this year, which includes revised tests. The memo, from Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz, explained that the purpose of Common Core, implemented nationally, is to improve students’ college and career readiness.
“New York State, for the first time, will be reporting student grade-level expectations against a trajectory of college- and career-readiness as measured by tests fully reflective of the Common Core,” Slentz wrote, “and, as a result, the number of students who score at or above grade level expectations will likely decrease.”
With concerns that American students were falling behind their counterparts in other countries, Common Core was designed to create a nationwide set of high expectations so Americans would be able to compete in a global job market. In Kentucky, the first state to give tests based on Common Core, the number of students meeting the standards for their grades dropped by a third.
Bill Heidenreich, superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District, where seventh- and eighth-graders will take the tests, said that history shows an “implementation dip” in the first year after a major change takes effect.
The memo stated that the expected drop in scores should not necessarily be taken as a decline in student performance. Instead, the tests will give educators and the public a more realistic picture of how prepared students are for the post-high school world.
Heidenreich said that educators will know how to interpret the scores, but he is worried that the general public won’t. “The concern that I have is it gives the perception that our schools are not performing,” he said.
“You’re not comparing apples to apples,” added District 24 Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale. “The tests are more rigorous, and they’re measuring different things.”