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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Scores on school tests drop sharply
Superintendents speak out on state program

Scores on standardized New York State English Language Arts and math tests dropped dramatically this year in both Oceanside and Island Park, worrying many parents who fear that their children will be negatively affected, and teachers who fear that the scores might impact their jobs.

In Oceanside’s grade 7, the percentage of students who passed the exams fell to 37.5 percent in ELA and to 48.8 percent in mathematics from 2011-12’s 64.5 and 80 percent, respectively. There were similar drops for Island Park’s seventh-graders, with 34.1 percent passing the ELA test this year and 33.4 percent passing the math exam, compared with 70.1 and 87.1 percent, respectively, in 2011-12.

State education officials say, however, that “compared” is the wrong word to use when measuring 2012-13 against 2011-12. “There may be some who try to use today’s results to attack principals and teachers. That would be wrong,” Education Commissioner John B. King said in a prepared statement. “The changes in scores do not mean that schools have taught less or that students have learned less.”

King added, “The new assessments are a better, more accurate tool for educators, students and parents as they work together to address the rigorous demands of the Common Core and college and career readiness in the 21st century.”

“The world has changed, the economy has changed and what our students need to know has changed,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning. These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness.”

“The game has changed,” said Dr. Phyllis Harrington, the newly appointed superintendent of Oceanside schools. “It’s like you kick a field goal in football and while the ball is in the air, they suddenly move the goalposts back 10 yards.”

She added, “We understand that this is a new baseline and we understand that we have to work to make it better for next year. We will work to use that baseline as an opportunity to improve and assure that all of our students are prepared for college and careers. That is our expectation.”


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National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

Project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

Alan Cook




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