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September 16, 2013

Quick study

New state tests and Common Core bringing rapid changes

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A new school year in underway. And with it comes some big changes to how students are challenged and how their achievements are measured.

Last month, state officials released test results for the 2012-13 school year, the first exams under the new Common Core Learning Standards that were adopted by the state Board of Regents in 2010.

The Common Core standards are supposed to give a more accurate reflection of students’ progress toward college and career readiness, state officials have said. The standards are based on a more narrowly focused curriculum, favoring depth instead of covering a wider range of topics and skills.

And that includes tougher ELA and math tests.

Like many schools across the state, Eastern Niagara County schools didn’t fare well in this year’s statewide math and English language arts exams for third- through eighth-graders. Scores plummeted everywhere.

But the low scores were something Commissioner John King said he expected to happen. Schools have been encouraged to look at the tests as a starting point, a new baseline from which state education hopes a higher-quality of student achievement grows.

”The message they sent out to schools was ‘don’t panic,’ “ said Lockport City School Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley. “ ‘It’s a new standard, don’t compare it with previous years.’ “

At some point over the next couple of weeks parents will start receiving individual score reports from those state tests. School district officials are preparing for the questions they’ll receive.

”We’ll be fielding calls... you might be fielding some calls,” Sean Croft, Starpoint’s assistant superintendent of instruction, assessment and staff development, told the Board of Education on Monday. “You may hear from a parent who’ll say my kid has gotten a mid-level 3 for the past few years, now they’re a level 2. What’s going on?”

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