After New York State education officials released test scores suggesting that Port Jefferson students were significantly less proficient in math and English that previously thought, superintendent Dr. Ken Bossert said district officials believe there is “no correlation” between those scores and students’ actual achievement levels.
Bossert published a letter saying that he feels the state tests were given prematurely – before students were given enough time to learn the new, more rigorous Common Core curriculum.
“We take great pride in the quality education we provide to all students in our school district,” Bossert wrote. “This year’s assessment results are not an accurate reflection of our students’ ability to learn or on the instructional skills of our professional staff.”
Bossert said the district, as well as hundreds of other school officials, protested when state officials admitted that the exams tested students on a significant amount of material that they were never taught.
Test scores in grades 3 through 8 in Port Jefferson showed dramatic drops from the 2011-12 school year to the 2012-13 school year. Students were scored on four levels, with Level 4 meaning students were more than proficient and Level 1 meaning students were not proficient.
Test Results As Reported by New York State
Grade 3 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 49.2 percent
2012: 88.2 percent
Grade 3 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 53 percent
2012: 75.5 percent
Grade 4 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 56.4 percent
2012: 71.8 percent
Grade 4 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 56.4 percent
2012: 85.9 percent
Grade 5 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 36.7 percent
2012: 83.5 percent
Grade 5 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 45.5 percent
2012: 88 percent
Grade 6 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 65.7 percent
2012: 84.4 percent
Grade 6 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 53.4 percent
2012: 85.4 percent
Grade 7 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 52.8 percent
2012: 81.6 percent
Grade 7 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 48.9 percent
2012: 88.1 percent
Grade 8 English – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 70.4 percent
2012: 78.1 percent
Grade 8 Math – scoring at Levels 3 & 4
2013: 59.1 percent
2012: 89 percent
In a statement released Wednesday, State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., acknowledged that more students across the state struggled on these tests this year than in previous years because they were based on the "new, challenging standards" of the Common Core curriculum.
"We want every single one of our students to be on track for college and careers by the time they graduate from high school," King said. "Our former standards did not prepare all of our students for 21st century college and careers."
The tests given this past spring were the first to test students based on the national Common Core curriculum, which New York State adopted in 2010. Individual school districts had three years to implement the Common Core standards, knowing that the spring 2013 assessments were on the horizon. In a recent memo, Ken Slentz, a deputy commissioner in the state's Department of Education, said the Common Core standards "were developed by mapping backwards from college and career success, internationally benchmarked, and informed by research."
State officials have said the cut scores – meaning the specific point totals that determined where students scored within the four proficiency levels – were set based on research and analysis. They said in this way, the scores will provide a benchmark for measuring future progress.
“It should be understood that this is not attributable to a decline in student performance,” Bossert wrote in his letter. “Instead, it reflects the fact that the assessments were prematurely implemented before students could be effectively instructed in the new, more rigorous, Common Core Learning Standards curriculum.”