June 02, 2009

State Ed: Students show steady gains in state math tests

Source: New York State Department of Education

The State Education Department released the following information and data on math tests for students in grades 3-8.

The complete press release from the State Education Department is available below.

For More Information Contact:
Jonathan Burman, Jane Briggs, or Tom Dunn at (518) 474-1201
Internet: http://www.nysed.gov/

Students statewide show steady, measured gains on math tests across all grades

Achievement in math in grades 3-8 has improved overall this year, according to 2009 test results announced today by Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.

Eighty-six percent (86.4%) of students across grades 3-8 achieved the standards in math this year, compared with 80.7 percent last year. More of this year's students are meeting the standards than did students in those grades four years ago. Despite these improvements, many students are still not meeting the standards.

Testing of students in math in each grade, 3 through 8, began in 2006. Prior to that, students were tested only in fourth and eighth grade. In 2006, the Regents also adopted a core curriculum for each grade that sets clear expectations for instruction. 

"Over the past four years, we've seen incremental progress in math and English performance," Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. "Some grades show a higher mastery rate than others – for example, the current grade 3 in math. At this juncture, it is appropriate to ask if we should be increasing the rigor of the current 3-8 testing system. To do this, we will carefully review data trends of the past four years. We will ask the Technical Advisory Group to recommend to the Education Department appropriate next steps. After appropriate research and thoughtful discussion, the Board of Regents will determine the next steps the Department will take regarding the rigor of these exams."

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "As students progressed through the grades, their performance in mathematics increased steadily, although the gains have been small to moderate as measured by average scale scores. Nevertheless, we see children in earlier grades scoring at higher levels than their older siblings. That's a good sign if it continues. As we prepare to develop the next set of tests for 2010, it's probably time to raise the bar again."

The grade-by-grade tests, together with the individual student data system, enable the Department to track the academic growth of classes of students over time. It is now possible to see, for example, how students who were third graders in 2006 are performing this year as sixth graders. In the past, the Department was able to look only at specific grade levels and how those grade levels compared from year to year. Both types of data – growth over time as well as year to year comparisons – are being presented today.

The results show that students who began the 3-8 grade-by-grade curriculum in the early grades started at a higher achievement level than did older students who started the grade-by-grade curriculum in higher grades. Nearly 93 percent (92.9%) of this year's third graders, for example, scored at Levels 3 and 4 this year. Middle school performance, which was very low when the grade 3-8 exams began four years ago, has improved significantly over time – indicating that these students are better prepared to do high school-level work.

The results also show that while the percentage of students meeting the standards has gone up significantly, average scale scores show moderate improvements as students progress from one grade to the next. The average student scale score across all grades, 3-8, increased by only six points this year (note: students are graded on a scale from the 400's to the upper 700's). Over time, many students have improved their performance enough to move over the line from Level 2 to Level 3, indicating proficiency. But the increase in the average scale score for those students was sometimes relatively smaller.

Among the reasons credited for the overall progress of students on the Math exams are the following:

  • The State has invested significantly more resources in education over time.
  • Universal pre-kindergarten has been expanding and reaching more students each year, so children are better prepared for school.
  • The Regents adopted a core curriculum in 2006, helping to better guide instruction. Schools are aligning their instruction with the core curriculum.
  • Schools have seized opportunities to incorporate best practices and support programs and are increasing professional development opportunities to improve instruction.

The achievement gap in Math continues to slowly close, and similar trends are emerging for different groups of students over time. Following are some examples:

  • Students with Disabilities: Generally, more students with disabilities met the standards as they progressed from one grade to the next. As well, fewer students with disabilities are scoring at Level 1 (i.e., showing serious academic difficulties) as they progress through the grades. For example, 23.7 percent of students with disabilities who took the Math exam in 2006 as third graders scored at Level 1; only 16.3 percent of those same students scored at Level 1 when they took the exam this year as sixth graders. While the results for students with disabilities have improved overall, they remain low.
  • English Language Learners (ELLs): ELLs show mixed improvements in advancing to Levels 3 and 4 as they have moved through school. Earlier grades are starting with more students at Levels 3 and 4. For example, 84.4 percent of this year's third graders scored at Levels 3 and 4. The percentage of ELLs scoring at Level 1 has decreased significantly. For example, 22.7 percent of ELLs who took the English exam in 2006 as fourth graders scored at Level 1; only 6.5 percent of those same students scored at Level 1 when they took the exam this year as seventh graders.
  • Black and Hispanic Students: Across all grades, black and Hispanic students have experienced significant growth in meeting the standards. Last year, 65.9 percent of black students, across grades 3-8, met the standards; this year 75 percent did. Similarly, last year, 71.1 percent of Hispanic students, across grades 3-8, met the standards; this year, 79.5 percent did. These gains exceed the gains achieved by white and Asian students statewide.
  • Need/Resource Categories (NRCs): The various NRCs include: Low Need schools, Average Need schools, Rural schools, Urban-Suburban schools, Large City schools, and New York City schools. Across all grades, 3-8, districts in all NRCs have made significant gains in the percentage of students scoring at Levels 3 and 4.
  • Big 5 School Districts: In each of the Big 5 City School Districts (New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers), the percentage of students scoring at Levels 3 and 4 has significantly increased over the past four years. And in each of the cities, students' average scores have also increased over those four years.

New York's testing system, including the grade 3 through 8 tests, passed a rigorous peer review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, distinguished national experts on the state's Technical Advisory Group meet regularly to review all aspects of New York's assessment system; that group said that the state used commonly accepted psychometric practices in designing and administering these tests.

Students receive a specific scale score on the tests which falls into one of four levels:

  • Level 4 – Exceeds the learning standards
  • Level 3 – Meets the learning standards
  • Level 2 – Partially meets the learning standards or meets part of the learning standards
  • Level 1 – Shows serious academic problems.

A more detailed breakdown of results as well as school by school results is available on the web at http://www.nysed.gov/.

Past math and English exams and scoring guides are also available on the web at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/osa/.

Press Conference Materials

Mathematics Assessment Results for 2009

Webcast of Press Conference

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