Fewer students in the Greenport and Mattituck school districts achieved proficiency in 2016-17 state assessments while scores improved slightly for the Southold School District, according to figures released Aug. 22 by the state Department of Education.
While scores rose overall across New York, state educators say they don’t believe the scores accurately reflect students’ abilities because the number of students who refuse to take the state-mandated exams, known as “opting out,” has continued to increase every year.
In Greenport, proficiency was achieved by 20 percent of tested students on the math exams and 17 percent on the English Language Arts (ELA) tests. These scores are down slightly lower that the previous year, when 32 percent of students were deemed proficient in math and 24 percent in ELA.
However, only 68 of Greenport’s 293 eligible third- through eighth-graders took the math exams, according to school figures, and 58 sat for the ELA tests.
In Southold, assessment scores were slightly better than last school year, with 28 percent of students scoring proficient in math, up by 1 percent, and 39 percent in ELA, up 2 percent.
Nearly 56 percent of 368 students in Southold refused declined the math exams and 57 percent opted out of ELA testing.
David Gamberg, superintendent for both Southold and Greenport schools and an outspoken critic of high-stakes testing, said he believes the state needs to provide testing tailored to the different ways students learn.
“My ideal testing scenario would be for students to present their understanding in front of a panel of outside adjudicators,” Mr. Gamberg said. “The reason for that is because that would give us a clear understanding of the qualities that they’re able to demonstrate in any subject area, whether it’s math, science, art or history.”
He said this would allow districts to test more frequently internally instead of having annual week-long state exams — a practice he described as “incongruent with what research says about effective schools and learning.”
Over in Mattituck, scores were slightly lower compared to the previous year, with 52 percent of students scoring proficient on ELA tests, down 2 percent. Similarly, 60 percent scored proficient in math, also down 2 percent.
The district’s test refusal rate was 44.1 percent of 510 students declining to sit for the ELA exams and 44.3 percent of students skipped the math tests.
Superintendent Anne Smith didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Statewide, 40 percent of tested students were determined proficient in both ELA and math during the 2016-17 school year. This is a slight improvement over the previous school year, when 38 percent of students met ELA standards and 39 percent did so in math.
In December 2015, the state Board of Regents, which drafts education guidelines for New York public schools, imposed a four-year moratorium on using student scores to evaluate teachers and principals. This was a response to high-stakes testing concerns voiced by parents and school officials across the state.
Mr. Gamberg said while his idea is “more labor intensive,” he believes it would be more beneficial to both students and educators as they could have a better understanding of whether or not children understand the materials they’re studying.
“We’ll have them build a robot and see if the robot works and that tells you if the science is being understood,” he said. “It would really give us insight into where we are missing the mark.”
In Orient’s Oysterponds School District, which serves students in pre-K through grade six, 62 percent of students were deemed proficient on math exams, up 19 percent. Of 41 eligible students, 21 opted out of the math exam. Nearly 35 percent of 26 students tested scored proficient on ELA exams, up 3 percent.
Superintendent Richard Malone didn’t immediately return a request for comment.