Students Make Incremental Progress On Common Core Math Tests, But English Scores Flat

Aug 14, 2014

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New York’s school children made incremental progress in math scores but no gains in English tests in the second year of Common Core-related exams. Education officials say overall, only around one third of students actually passed the tests.

In math tests administered to third to eighth graders, just 35.8 percent statewide were considered to meet or exceed the new Common Core standards. Nearly two thirds, or 64.2 percent, of the children in the state did not meet the Common Core standards and failed the tests. The number of those passing was around three points 3 points higher than last year, when just 31.2 percent passed.

On the English tests, students statewide only improved by a tenth of a percentage point, from 31.3 percent passing in 2013  to 31.4 percent in 2014. Over two thirds of the third to eighth graders were considered not to be only partially proficient or well below proficient in reading and writing.

Education officials nevertheless say they are encouraged and that things are improving.  Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch called it “modest but real progress.”

“Students statewide made significant progress in math,” Tisch said.

But Chancellor Tisch admits that English scores did not improve as much as hoped.

“Let’s be clear, we still have a very long way to go,” Tisch said.  “And there is still much more to do.”

Tisch says that only slightly more than one third, or  37.2 percent, of today’s ninth graders will graduate high school college or career ready, and most of those who attend higher education institutions will have to take costly remedial classes.

Overall, students from richer schools score higher on the tests, around half are considered to have passed the exams. But in the English exams even students in the state’s wealthiest schools saw scores slip a bit, from an average of 52 percent in 2013 passing to 49 percent this year.  While there was some improvement in New York City schools, upstate urban districts including Buffalo and Syracuse had among the lowest test scores in the state. Rochester was at the bottom, with just 6.8 percent considered to meet or exceed standards in math, and 5.7 percent considered proficient in English.

The low test scores will not count against students. Governor Cuomo and the legislature this spring imposed a two year moratorium on the exam results being applied to student records, after what was widely viewed as a botched roll out of the Common Core standards.

The flawed implementation of Common Core led to noisy protests at schools in the fall of 2013, when Chancellor Tisch and Education Commissioner John King attempted to address parents, teachers and students concerns.

Commissioner King was asked on the teleconference call whether he thought the second year of low test scores would further fuel the backlash against Common Core. He refuted that, and says most of the opposition is based on misconceptions.

“There continues to be a lot of discourse driven by misinformation,” King said.

The parents of over 55,000 students opted out of taking the tests this year, including the children of the Republican candidate for governor, Rob Astorino.  Astorino has made opposition to the Common Core part of his campaign, even starting a new ballot line called the Stop Common Core party.

King tamped down expectations of any rapid turn around in the test scores in the next few years, saying he expects “continued incremental progress.”