School administrators weigh in on recent state assessment scores

Only a portion of students were declared “proficient” in state math and English Language Arts exams this year, and local superintendents say they believe the assessments fail to accurately reflect student performance.

And since the number of students refusing to take the exams has continued to grow for the past three years, educators say current test scores do not provide a clear picture of a school’s ability to educate youth.

[Related: Did more outspoken leadership play a role in ‘opt out’ results?]

About 36 percent of students in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District met state proficiency standards in this year’s ELA exams, according to results of this spring’s testing for students in grades 3 through 8, which were released last week by the New York State Department of Education.

Scores on the mandated exams are determined by state standards for proficiency and based on the number of students rated at levels 3 and 4.

As for math, 55 percent of Mattituck-Cutchogue students met the state’s proficiency standards.

Statewide, about 31 percent of students were found proficient in ELA and 38 percent tested proficient in math this year.

Superintendent Anne Smith said she is concerned about the state’s current approach of using assessments to judge student ability and believes testing shouldn’t be the only method used.

“The magnitude of what the tests currently attempt to represent is troubling and often a distraction from the important work of teaching and learning in a community of learners,” she said. “It appears there is little faith in the system connecting teacher and principal scores with assessments that have lost credibility across stakeholder groups.”

In addition to the latest test scores, state officials announced that about 20 percent of eligible students across New York refused to take the exams this year.

Dr. Smith said she thinks this year’s scores are difficult to interpret because 35 percent of her district’s students refused to take the ELA assessments and 40 percent opted out of the math exams.

In a statement, Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch defended the state’s current use of assessments despite rising refusal numbers.

“We must do more to ensure that our parents and teachers understand the value and importance of these tests for our children’s education,” she said. “Our tests have been nationally recognized for providing the most honest look at how prepared our students are for future success and we believe annual assessments are essential to ensure all students make educational progress and graduate college and career ready. Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind. This cannot happen.”

David Gamberg, superintendent for both the Greenport and Southold school districts, said he doesn’t believe the recent test scores have any validity because the majority of school districts across the state did not meet the mandated 95 percent student participation rate.

In Greenport, about 61 percent of students refused to take the ELA exam and 68 percent opted out of the math test. Nearly 64 percent of Southold’s eligible students skipped the ELA tests and 58 percent refused to sit for the math exams.

As for assessment results among those who did take the exams, about 31 percent of Greenport students and 37 percent of Southold students met proficiency standards in ELA. In math, 41 percent of students in Greenport and 37 percent in Southold were rated proficient.

Mr. Gamberg also cited very low proficiency rates among English language learner (ELL) students and students with disabilities.

“This makes it very clear that there’s something fundamentally wrong,” he said of the results.

He also described the atmosphere surrounding the state’s assessment method as “unhealthy and unproductive.”

“[The scores] don’t have any bearing or validity on student performance,” Mr. Gamberg added.

Dr. Smith agreed that the latest test results do not offer a clear picture of a district’s ability to educate students and believes the state should “pause and rethink the many possible pathways to design and measure improvement in our schools.”

“We all value growth and monitoring our students’ learning,” she said. “We also value our educators and strive to finding meaningful ways to measure educator professional growth.”

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Click on the tab below for a summary of test scores and refusals.