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October 10, 2013

State Regents agree to give schools test score leeway

The state Board of Regents has decided to give school districts greater leeway in deciding who needs remedial services in light of recent state test scores.

Area superintendents said Wednesday they welcomed the flexibility, but a parent interviewed on the subject would have preferred to see standards maintained.

In previous standardized tests for students in grades 3-8, anyone who scored below proficiency (1 or 2) had to be provided with academic intervention services (AIS). But following the 2012-13 standardized tests, which saw 31.1 percent of students statewide meet or exceed proficiency for English Language Arts and 31 percent meet the standard in math, the Board of Regents has decided to allow flexibility in intervention requirements, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

The Regents approved threshold scores that will vary from exam to exam that will reduce the number of students for whom intervention services are required. The scores in 2011-12 were on average 25 points higher in English and 35 points more in math, statewide.

Area schools tended to follow the sharp drop this year. Tests in 2013 were the first to based on new more challenging curriculum, Common Core — a federal standard adopted by more than 40 states.

Sidney Central School Superintendent Bill Christensen said without the change, about 70 percent of students would have needed AIS, which would have been difficult to achieve. The new rules will lower the total to about 18 to 20 percent, which is where the district would have been under the old tests.

“They had to do something,” or many students wouldn’t be learning any new material, he said. “I support what the state is trying to do” with the new curriculum, but “it was natural to expect problems the first year.”

With Regents test scores showing that high-school reading proficiency is 90 percent and algebra was more than 90 percent, the standardized test scores made little sense, he said.

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