Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District officials spent recent weeks poring over reams of state English Language Arts and math test data for the seventh and eighth grades, looking for patterns in student performance, according to Caryn Blum, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and a former Merrick Avenue Middle School principal.
At an Aug. 21 presentation to the Central District Board of Education, Blum said that Bellmore-Merrick’s test results outpaced those of many other Nassau County districts, which were among the state’s highest-performing school systems. But, she added, several Bellmore-Merrick students with 80 and 90 averages in ELA and math and passing marks on previous state tests struggled with the new exams, which were the first to measure students’ abilities against the new Common Core State Standards.
State exams are graded on a scale from one to four. Students scoring ones or twos do not meet state standards. Three is considered passing, and four is passing “with distinction.” Blum noted that even some advanced math students who took integrated algebra, a high school course, in eighth grade this past year — and who passed the Regents exam at the “mastery level,” scoring 85 or better out of 100 — received ones on the state eighth-grade math exam.
District-wide, 158 of 900 seventh-graders received ones on the ELA exam, as did 113 of 918 eighth-graders. On the math exam, 179 seventh-graders and 104 eighth-graders scored ones. By comparison, in previous years only a handful of Bellmore-Merrick middle-schoolers received ones, Blum said.
Those numbers, the assistant superintendent said, are “daunting,” adding that the new state tests were “not indicative of student performance at all.”
Many students “opted out” of the exams this spring. Nearly 100 Central District seventh- and eighth-graders did not take the ELA test, Blum said. As word of the opt-out movement spread, a growing number of parents kept their children out of the exams. More than 200 middle-schoolers did not sit for the math exam, which was given after the ELA test.