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October 18, 2012

Student test data reveals strengths weaknesses

By Michelle Miller
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Cooperstown Central School administrators have been examining data from Regents and other state tests to see what the trends are and how the district compares to the state average. The goal is to see where the strengths are and to identify where there may be a need to improve instruction.

Cohort and Regents scores from third through 12th grade, going back to 2006, were reviewed and charted.

Secondary Principal Michael Cring said an important factor to keep in mind when comparing data is the state raised the bar for the cut scores (the score that separates test takers into various categories) going into the 2010 year. This resulted in a lower percentage of students across the state that scored at a proficiency level, he said.

Without discussing particular teachers, Cring said measures will be taken to make improvements where the district feels they are needed.

“Plans of action have been put in place, depending on what the course is, depending on what the test is, an item of analysis has taken place and a review of either curriculum or potential weaknesses that have occurred with any of our student bodies are being looked at. And that happens every single year; and much more specifically now that we are into the new APPR (annual professional performance review required by the state).”

Elementary Principal Teresa Gorman said she and her staff are looking at the strengths and weaknesses, and more specifically at dips of achievement to try and figure out what may have gone wrong and how it can be fixed.

At the elementary level, Gorman said, work needed to be done to the schedule. For example, she said students are now receiving math instruction first thing in the morning for a full hour. Most other subjects are taught for 45 minutes.

She then pointed out the science scores.

“You can see we generally score very high in this area,” Gorman said. “That is not a reading test though. There are students that can get that test read to them, so for the most part what that is letting you know is what the students actually know about science. It is really a good example of what the kids really know about a certain subject.”

Regents exams are scored on scaled scores, according to Cring.

“It is not as cut-and-dry as looking at third grade or fourth grade,” he said. “Some of the examinations have a really hard scale score while others have a rather easy scale score. A really good example of that would be the living environment course. You can see the pass rates in that class are very high every single year. This past year, 100 percent of our students passed the living environment Regents examination. The state average is 74 percent.” 

English is another subject where CCS students tend to do well, according to Superintendent C.J. Hebert. 

The scores dropped off a bit in 2011, but have remained in the 90th percentile from 2009 to 2012. The state average has remained in the lower 80th percentile range, according to the data.

The 2012 state data was not included, but according to Hebert, if the trend continues to remain in the 80 percentile, CCS will be way above the state average in both proficiency and mastery.

The more difficult exams, according to Cring, are physics, chemistry and algebra II/trigonometry. However, he pointed out that data showed CCS students scored higher than the state average in every course where a Regents was given. Mastery levels were also very much above the state average in many cases, he added.

Hebert said scores have gone down since the district decided to require every student taking a Regents course had to sit for the exam. The state requires students to take a certain number of Regents exams, but students do not have to take every one offered or even have to pass them all to graduate, according to Hebert.

According to Cring, at the end of 2011 the district’s focus was to improve passing and mastery scores in chemistry, physics and algebra II.

“The item analysis and diving into the core curriculum in that course paid great dividends for our students,” he said, while showing where scores have improved over the three years the exam has been given. 

Cring said the goal is to get the mastery percent rate up to 30 percent.

There was a slight increase in pass rate for chemistry in 2012 and a much higher increase in mastery.

The physics exam has only been given for two years. In 2011 the pass rate score was pretty much even with the state average and the mastery was higher than the state average. Scores went up significantly in 2012, but there are no state scores to compare them to yet.

David Borgstrom, board of education president, asked if the district really wants to be using the state average as a benchmark for success.

Cring said, “No. The answer to that question is no. We should not be at or slightly above the state average. I believe that the talent level and the potential talent pool of our students and the abilities of our teachers, and depending on which Regents exam or course we are talking about, should be above state average.”

Gorman said the goal is that every year a cohort increases its proficiency percentage and not have it decrease.

“If it does decrease, then what we need to take away from that is to investigate why, what happened and to just do our best to make sure it does not happen again,” she said.

Borgstrom pointed out there is a trend that shows scores are dropping in math when comparing the 2016 through 2018 cohorts.

Cring said there are very specific plans in place not only for instructors, but for course work.

“I will add, without it sounding like an excuse, the math exams were more difficult last year. You can notice that the state average has also been declining with some of the changes with tests,” he said.

Hebert noted strengths in geometry with a 98 percent pass rate and more than 50 percent at the mastery level.

“There have certainly been very solid results with geometry results within the last couple of years,” he said. The proficiency percentage went up from 60 percent in 2009 to 91 percent in 2010, while the mastery percentage went from 13 to 32 percent.

An area of focus CCS has been looking at for integrated algebra is improving mastery.

“There are some obvious inconsistencies with pass rate from peak and valley,” Cring said.

Achieving more mastery scores will also be a goal for earth science, according to Cring. 

He said global history/geography and U.S history pass and mastery rates tend to be strong.