Monday, August 1, 2016

NYS Releases Student Test Scores: What Results Tell Us About Common Core, Charters, and Opt-Out

Friday afternoon New York State released this year’s student standardized assessment results. They shed light on three controversial issues that have roiled education politics across the country over the past several years:

  1. The Common Core (or whatever N.Y.S. will call its set of course standards when it completes its review) is working. 
  2. Charter schools are particularly successful at increasing student achievement.
  3. The “opt out” movement isn’t gaining any steam.

While the state hasn’t released district-by-district scores, the percentage of  children in grades 3-8 who reached proficiency levels went up 6.6% in language arts and 1% in math. Results in NYC were a tad higher: a 7.6% increase in language arts 1.2% in math.

Of course, the test was shortened slightly from last year and children were given more time. Yet, the results are impressive. The Wall St. Journal quotes NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who “noted children in third and fourth grades, who started their academic lives with the standards, fared particularly well in reading."

While NYC school students improved overall, especially in reading,  Chalkbeat reports that “at least some of the city’s improvement on the English tests was driven by a dramatic spike in charter school scores.”  In fact, NYC charter school students’ reading scores leapt up by 13.7%, double that of students in traditional NYC schools. In math, NYC charter school students increased by 4.5%.

Not surprisingly, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t mention the disparity between outcomes for charter school students and traditional students in his formal press statement. But Jenny Sedlis of  StudentsFirstNY did it for him:
The evidence is in that charter schools are the most effective urban school reform in the nation. Charter schools are serving high-risk populations incredibly effectively and it’s time for Mayor de Blasio to embrace what actually works for low-income students.
And how about the opt-out movement, drivven by white suburban parents and union leaders fighting accountability for urban students of color? Meh. About the same as last year. The Journal says “this year’s refusers tended to hail from wealthy or average-income districts." The New York Times reports,
This year, some of that motivation [to refuse tests] had melted away [with the moratorium on tying student test scores to teacher evaluations].  But none of that made much of a difference with the anti-testing movement, which had hoped to see increased numbers of children sitting out the exams.
Lisa Rudley, parent and founder of the Long Island-based New York State Allies for Public Education, had lobbied fiercely to push up opt-out rates. So she was sad.

 From Chalkbeat.
“I think it’s sad that this has to be a victory, that parents can’t feel confident in the testing that they’ve been given. I think what [the 21% opt-out rate] says is that parents are still extremely angry and extremely upset about assessments. I just think it’s another indication that this is not going away in New York.”

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