Hammering away at increasing proficiency

State test scores rise, skills need improving


The percentage of test-takers achieving proficiency rose on Long Island and statewide compared with 2016, based on the results of the state exams taken by third- through eighth-graders in English Language Arts and math this year.

On Long Island, the ELA percentage of those students achieving proficiency was 46.2 percent in 2017 compared to 44.8 percent last year. In math, the gain was slight from 48.6 percent this year from 48.1 percent in 2016.

In comparison, the Island as a whole did much better than the state. This year the ELA percentage was 39.8 percent compared to 37.9 percent statewide, and in math it went up to 40.2 percent from 39.1 percent.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa believes that the state’s holistic approach helps the educational process to evolve and adapt. “I’m encouraged by the modest improvements we’re seeing in our test scores,” Rosa said in a media release. “As I’ve always said, testing is just one piece of the puzzle to understand how students are performing. And that’s why our draft ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plan takes a more holistic approach to accountability – an approach that looks at multiple measures of school and student success.”

Locally, the Lawrence School District saw modest gains and the youngest students — the third- and fourth-graders — did the best of all scoring 45 percent and 50 percent, respectively in achieving proficiency in ELA and 35 percent and 46 percent, respectively in math.

New Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said that students are developing their skills and what she called the “academic language” to do better on these state exams. “We are focused on the skills each student needs to improve,” Pedersen said. “This requires carefully looking at which standards the student are not performing well on at a grade and student level.”

The primary focus are math skills, especially in the special areas of music, art and physical education, Pedersen said, adding that opportunities for the students to “hear, see and use the academic vocabulary and skills needed for the exams,” such as math events will be part of the new school year. The students’ top 16 percent performance statewide in the low socio-economic subgroup shows that they are learning the skills, she added.

Lawrence’s opt-out rate — the percent students not taking the state tests — is lower than most Long Island districts — 28 percent for math and 29 percent for ELA — but the superintendent said that students not taking the exams definitely affects the results.

“It absolutely impacts the results,” Pedersen said. “As we see most opt-out students are students who could master the material on the exam, and receive a proficient score.”

In the Hewlett-Woodmere district scores are much higher, but there are blips. Only 39 percent of seventh-graders attained proficiency in math, where the percentages were much higher in the other grades except for eighth grade where it was only 5 percent because students took the high school Regents algebra exam instead.

In addition, 57 percent of students reached proficiency in ELA. Also, district opt-outs were 61 percent for ELA and 53 percent for the math tests. “With such a significant number of students not taking the tests, it is very difficult to draw valid conclusions regarding the results,” said Mark Secaur, the district’s deputy superintendent. “With that said, tools such as Nassau BOCES Data Warehouse can help us identify how well our students performed on specific questions that the state has released.” A full report was presented at the Sept. 6 Board of Education meeting.