BC News

‘Proficiency’ dips statewide as a result of new test scoring procedures

Posted: July 30, 2010

Parents may note a change when results are mailed home 

Scores released this week for the English and math exams students in grades 3-8 took this spring showed a sharp decline statewide in proficiency levels from recent years — not because student performance decreased but because the state has significantly changed the standards proficiency is measured by.

While Bethlehem Central students generally performed as well on the tests as they had in recent years, a lower percentage of them have been deemed proficient as a result of the new scoring methodology.

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents announced the new approach as part of its efforts to "raise the bar" for student achievement. The change increased the "cut points" that are used to determine where students fall into four categories of proficiency. By doing so, it made it harder for students to achieve proficiency on tests that had the same format and measured the same concepts and skills as prior years.

For example, the results recently released indicate that 72 percent of BC students across grades 3-8 achieved proficiency in English Language Arts for 2009-10, compared with 91 percent the year before. In math, the recent results indicate that 79 percent of student’s achieved proficiency in 2009-10 compared with 95 percent in 2008-09. At the same time, the raw scores that measure if students understand the concepts and skills tested did not deviate much from previous years.

“To be clear, BC students performed no differently on average than in years past and they are learning no less,” said Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Jody Monroe. “It is important that parents understand that fact — and understand that they may see a change in their own child’s proficiency level when scores are mailed home."

Individual students’ testing reports are expected to be mailed to households in August.

"Just like the Board of Regents, we continually work to see improvement in all areas of student achievement, growth and development,” Ms. Monroe added. “These tests are one of many important measures of how well we are doing, and we will continue to take a close look at the results.”

For more detail on BC’s scores, see the chart at the bottom of this article and note the similarity between the “mean scale scores” over the last two years.

Under the state’s testing system, scores on these exams are used to classify students into one of four performance levels. Students at Level 1 are not meeting learning standards; those at Level 2 are meeting the basic standard; students at Level 3 are meeting the proficiency standard and those at Level 4 are exceeding that standard.

The most significant change among the four different scoring levels for BC students was shift in students from Level 3 to Level 2.

Under current regulations, students who score at Level 2 or below are entitled to receive Academic Intervention Services (AIS). Yet, because the Board of Regents anticipated such a shift statewide and was concerned about the costs it would carry, it has amended AIS requirements for the coming year to give districts some flexibility.

“As always, we will make sure every student who needs extra help has access to it,” Ms. Monroe said. “This can come in many forms — AIS, a student coming afterschool, or a greater focus on particular areas in class. We will continue to work with our teachers to make sure students have the support they need.”

More changes coming

The changes to the scoring method were based in part on a series of studies that indicated that scoring a Level 3 was not by itself a strong enough indicator of a students’ future success on high school Regents exams or college coursework, according to the state Education Department.

Within the next few years, the format and standards on the tests are expected to change as well, with the tests becoming longer and more challenging.

The changes were announced by the Board of Regents as part of a broader educational reform effort.

"‘Proficiency’ on our exams has to mean something real; no good purpose is served when we say that a child is proficient when that child is not,” Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said in a recent news release. “But more rigorous exams are only one piece of the Regents broader reform vision – a vision that includes a more challenging curriculum, better training for teachers and principals, and a world-class data system. In short, we are lifting the bar to ensure that New York remains at the very forefront of the national effort to raise standards.”


BC Grades 3-8 ELA Test Results, 2008-09 and 2009-10

    Levels 3-4      
    (% of Students)   Mean Scale Scores
    2008-09 2009-10   2008-09 2009-10
Grade 3 ELA 89 74   685 679
  Math 98 73   701 699
Grade 4 ELA 89 80   678 689
  Math 92 83   695 700
Grade 5 ELA 94 71   689 685
  Math 94 79   691 695
Grade 6 ELA 94 64   675 671
  Math 95 80   699 692
Grade 7 ELA 96 75 679 684
  Math 98 84   699 692
Grade 8 ELA 86 67   674 670
  Math 93 75   689 690


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