The state elementary school test scores released this month have school officials scurrying to explain their significance to the community without appearing to be apologizing for lower grades or allowing the numbers to stand as the sole criterion for assessing student performance.
Numbers in most districts are down from last year, but the tests themselves have changed in recent years, as has the scoring.
Recognizing that high school graduates often needed remediation in college, the state education department began employing a new scale to score tests taken in the 2009-10 school term, Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said. That sets a higher bar, making it more difficult for students to exceed state standards in the last two testing periods. Not every percentage in every grade is lower this year, but many are, the superintendent said.
The aim is to facilitate earlier identification of students who need additional academic help, he said. The short-term result, however, has been a smaller percentage of students exceeding state standards and more students needing academic intervention services, Mr. Gamberg said.
Results in Southold show 63.8 percent of third-graders exceeded standards in English language arts and 67.8 percent in mathematics.
Among fourth-graders, the figures are 64.4 percent in English language arts and 65.5 percent in math.
In grade five, standards were exceeded by 63.8 percent for English language arts standards and 75.9 percent for math. The sixth-grade scores are 66.3 percent for English and 65.8 percent in math.
Mr. Gamberg said he’s not “making excuses” for his responsibility to ensure that students are well prepared for the tests. But he said the tests don’t capture all that’s important in assessing students’ progress.
“Clearly, we need to look at where we need to improve in reading, writing and arithmetic,” Mr. Gamberg said, echoing the views of other educators.
Results for the tests taken during the 2010-11 school year are available on the state education department’s website at p12.nysed.gov/irs/ela-math/.
State tests are “in a state of flux right now,” said Cutchogue East principal Anne Smith. The levels for accomplishment changed two years ago, she said, and last year tests became longer, especially for third-graders.
“We are responsible for teaching to the new standards while assessing based on previous standards until new assessments are in place,” Dr. Smith said. “The test will continue for at least two more years to be based on the previous standards.”
Scores across Long Island and the East End vary.
“We are focused on areas where an overall grade level was lower than expected, such as our third grade this past year,” she said.
Echoing Mr. Gamberg, Dr. Smith pointed out that test scores are just “one measure of student growth.”
Among the results: 55.5 percent of district third graders exceeded standards in English language arts and 60.2 percent in math. Among the fourth-graders tested, 65.2 percent exceeded state ELA standards and 80 percent in math.
Some 62.5 percent of the district’s fifth-graders exceeded ELA standards; 83.5 percent did so in math. Of the sixth-graders tested, 73.4 percent exceeded standards in ELA and 84.5 percent in math.
Greenport elementary students’ test scores will be the subject of the September Board of Education meeting, according to Superintendent Michael Comanda.
“We’re not happy and we have some work to do,” he said, adding that the standards will continue to rise in successive years.
“We’re not afraid of raising the bar,” Mr. Comanda said.
Among Greenport’s third graders, 45.9 percent exceeded standards in language arts and 61 percent in math. In the fourth grade, 59 percent exceeded the minimum in ELA and 44.8 percent in math.
Among fifth-graders tested, 46.3 percent exceeded standards in language and 60 percent in math. Sixth-graders did better, with 63.6 percent and 93.9 percent exceeding standards in ELA and math, respectively.
Oysterponds can claim bragging rights as the district with the “strongest scores on the North Fork,” according to Board of Education president Deborah Dumont. But, she was quick to add, “we still have work to do.” Ms. Dumont agreed when Dick Leslie — who organizes the summer program with his wife, Ellie — as he challenged the district to do better.
Quogue, which holds the title as the top school on the East End and the No. 2 school statewide in test scores, has set the mark for Oysterponds, according to Mr. Leslie.
Data shows that among 81.8 percent of Oysterponds third-graders demonstrated proficiency in language and 99.9 percent in math.
The equivalent numbers for the fourth grade are 87.5 percent 93.8 percent.
Among fifth-graders, proficiency scores were 33.3 percent in language and 46.7 percent in math. The corresponding scores for sixth-graders were 93.8 percent and 100 percent.
Because New Suffolk has so few students, test results aren’t made public to protect individuals’ privacy. According to Superintendent Robert Feger, teachers share results individually with parents and, when necessary, institute steps toward remediation, just as in other districts.