Officials at the Roslyn School District have long made it clear that they do not put great stock in New York State’s extensive testing procedures. Given the amount of testing administered to young people and the pressure that it entails, such thinking is common throughout Long Island and New York State. Still, Roslyn’s standing as a premier school district remains solid. This spring, the New York State Education Department held statewide testing for students grades 3-8 in both the English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. State officials said that students statewide made “incremental progress” in both areas, up from scores in 2013, when testing began.
However, students in the Roslyn district recorded impressive gains over last year’s testing.
Testing is divided into four levels. Level 1 is considered below average. For students graduating prior to 2022, students scoring at Level 2 and above on the ELA and math tests are on track for current graduation requirements. Students scoring at Level 3 and above are on track to graduate at the aspirational college- and career-ready level.
For math scores, Roslyn students in grades 3-8 scored at only 9 percent in Level 1 for 2014. This spring, that number dropped to 6 percent. In Level 2, the Roslyn score was 27 percent in 2014 and 20 percent in 2015. Level 3 scores were 34 percent in 2014 and 32 percent this year. However, Level 4—the highest one—saw a significant improvement. In 2014, Roslyn students came in at 31 percent in 2015. This year, the number took a healthy increase to 43 percent. Finally, in combining Level 3 and 4, Roslyn scored 75 percent, up a solid 10 points from 2014’s total of 65 percent.
The ELA scores showed the same progress. In 2014, 15 percent of Roslyn students scored at Level 1. This year, that number also dropped, in this case, to 11 percent. Similarly, Level 2 scores dropped from 37 to 28 percent this year. Level 3 scores, likewise, increased from 33 percent in 2014 to a healthy 39 percent in 2015. Level 4 increased to 22 percent, up from 15 percent in 2014. The combined scores for Level 3 and 4 rose an impressive 13 percent, from 48 percent in 2014 to 61 percent this year.
Such scores were well above statewide levels. For instance, the combined Level 3 and 4 scores statewide in math were 38 percent this year, up from 36 percent in 20124. Statewide ELA scores for that same level remained at 31 percent.
“The Roslyn School District is pleased to acknowledge the improvement in the performance of our students on state assessments in grades 3-8,” said Gerard W. Dempsey, Jr., the acting superintendent of schools.”Although we share the deeply felt concerns regarding the limitations of standardized tests, we want our students to do well on any measure of their skills. We are confident that our staff will continue to prepare our students as well as they can, however our expectations for their learning and growth goes far beyond these assessments.”
The state’s two top educators also commented on the scores.
“New York was an early adopter of higher learning standards and the assessments aligned to them, and our teachers have been working hard to help students meet these higher standards,” said Merryl H. Tisch, Board of Regents chancellor. “Now we have to make sure those teachers get the professional development and resources they need to help students continue to make progress. The board is committed to providing these resources to our teachers so our students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful after high school.”
“The transition to new learning standards is not easy, and success isn’t instantaneous,” added MaryEllen Elia, state education commissioner. “Teachers across the state are working hard to help students reach the high bar we’ve set for them. In fact, we’ve increased seven points in math in two years. Thousands more of New York’s students are on track to graduate high school prepared to do more rigorous math. Now is the time for the state and districts to make certain that students move to the next level. It’s clear to me that we must do a better job of supporting our teachers and principals as they continue to shift their practice to the higher learning standards.”
Both also commented on the participation rates. According to state data, approximately 80 percent of eligible test takers participated in the 2015 grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests; about 20 percent of eligible test takers did not participate in these tests and, according to state officials, did not have a recognized, valid reason for not participating.
“This year, there was a significant increase in the number of students refusing the annual assessments,” Tisch said. “We must do more to ensure that our parents and teachers understand the value and importance of these tests for our children’s education. Our tests have been nationally recognized for providing the most honest look at how prepared our students are for future success, and we believe annual assessments are essential to ensure all students make educational progress and graduate college and career ready. Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind. This cannot happen.”
“We must also do a better job of explaining to parents the benefits of higher standards and annual testing,” added Elia. “Since I became Commissioner, I’ve made it a priority to establish a dialog with parents so they better understand why we test. Annual assessments provide important information about individual students for parents and classroom teachers and allow us to keep track of how all student groups are doing. This year’s results show our scores are not yet where they need to be, but we will work to ensure continued improvement.”