Students in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties have some catching up to do.
Fewer third- through eighth-grade children were judged as meeting state standards in English Language Arts and math in both counties. Also, students scored lower at every grade level on ELA and math exams than their fellow students statewide, except for Cattaraugus County third-graders on the ELA test.
State Education Department officials say the average scale score on both tests is slightly higher than the 2011 tests, which means students had to score slightly higher to meet state standards. Statewide, there is a small increase in the percentage of students meeting standards.
"There is some positive momentum in these numbers," said Merryl H. Tisch, Board of Regents chancellor. "But too many of our students, especially students of color, English Language learners and special education students, are currently not on a course for college and career readiness. That's why we are continuing to press forward with critical reforms to ensure all of our kids are ready for college and careers. In the fall we will begin to phase in a new, more challenging, content-rich curriculum and continue to press for the implementation of a rigorous teacher evaluation system in every district across the state."
WHAT THE GRADING SYSTEM MEANS
The results are broken down into four levels:
Level 1 - Below Standard, which means the students' performance does not demonstrate an understanding of the subject and skills expected;
Level 2 - Meets Basic Standard, which means the students' performance shows a partial understanding of the subject and skills expected, though it doesn't show proficiency to be meeting state standards;
Level 3 - Meets Proficiency Standard, which means the students' performance shows an understanding of the subject and the skills expected; and
Level 4 - Exceeds Proficiency Standard, which means students' performance demonstrates a thorough understanding of the subject and skills expected.
Students whose test scores fall into levels 3 and 4 are deemed to be meeting state standards. According to a realignment of state standards in 2010, meeting state standards indicates those students should score a 75 percent or above on high school ELA and math Regents exams, a figure experts say means the student can pass a basic college course or contribute to the workforce.
The state is still working to implement the Common Core standards to make more students college and career ready. In 2010, the state set new elementary and middle school performance standards based on the likelihood of scoring a 75 or 80 percent on high school Regents exams and moved tests toward the end of the year to give students more time to learn. It has taken the state 2011 and 2012 to finish realigning with the Common Core standards through a process the state calls "equating," which ensures that cut scores that determing students in each level are the same from year to year.
HOW IT AFFECTS INSTRUCTION
With that work done, a group of states are working together to develop a common set of kindergarten through 12th-grade tests in English and math that will be a better indicator of college and career readiness. Student progress will be measured each year and provide teachers with timely information to help them better support students. Targeted for launch in the 2014-15 school year, the new assessment system will change the structure of the tests, make better use of technology and be computer-based and include testing throughout the year so teachers, parents and students have more information about whether a student is on track or needs more help.
The state is also implementing its teacher and principal evaluation system in 2012-13 as part of the federal Race to the Top program.
John B. King Jr., state education commissioner, said the 2013 tests will be tougher for students as they reflect the new standards.
"We're building a ladder, grade by grade, to college and career readiness,'' King said. "These results are a small, positive sign of growth, but not enough of our students are climbing as steadily as they should be. Next school year, we start to implement reforms to make that ladder strong enough to support all our students as they climb toward college and career readiness."