state changes 'cut' scores for ela and math tests

July 2010

State changes method of determining test score levels


State Education Department to release ELA and math scores on July 28; change in 'cut scores' will mean fewer students in level 3 at all school districts across New York

Saying that the English Language Arts and mathematics exams taken by thousands of students in grades 3-8 across the state in May were not adequately measuring student performance, the state Education Department plans to raise the "cut score" or minimum score for students getting Level 3 scores.

The released results will reflect newly adopted procedures from SED that raise the scores students must earn in order to be considered “proficient” in a subject. Here's the link from the state Education Department web site:

Level 3 has historically meant "meeting state standards" and Level 4 has meant "exceeds state standards." Students scoring in Levels 2 and 1 were not meeting state standards and often received additional help in that subject.

The state Education Department raised the "cut" scores for students considered "proficient," meaning they scored in Level 3. As well, the "cut" scores were changed between levels 1 and 2, meaning that more student scores would be considered as not meeting standards.

The new "cut" scores between levels 2 and 3 – the score a child must achieve to be considered "proficient" and meeting the state's standards (at left below) and the new "cut" scores between levels 1 and 2 (the score below which a child must score to be considered "not meeting state standards" (at right below) – are as follows:

Grade New English Language Arts "cut" scores between
levels 2 and 3 (was 650 for all grades)
New Mathematics "cut" scores between
levels 2 and 3 (was 650 for all grades)
3 662 684
4 668 676
5 666 674
6 662 674
7 664 670
8 658 673

Grade New English Language Arts "cut" scores between
levels 1 and 2
(varied by grade)
New Mathematics "cut" scores between
levels 1 and 2
(varied by grade)
3 643 661
4 637 636
5 647 640
6 644 640
7 642 639
8 627 639

The scores were released on Wednesday, July 28. Here is the state Education Department's information about the test scores statewide.

Here are Scotia-Glenville's specific 2010 scores.

“We were not surprised to find that the number of Scotia-Glenville students achieving a Level 3 – which means they met the state's standards under the old 'cut' scores – were lower than in the past," said Superintendent Susan Swartz. "We will, as we have in the past, work with students to ensure that they meet the state standards and realize success in school and beyond."

She stressed that Scotia-Glenville will also continue to provide additional services to students who are struggling.

The tests were moved to May this year in an effort to allow teachers to cover more material from the particular grade before testing a child on the material. The ELA exams used to be given in January and the mathematics exam was given in March. This past year, they were both moved to May.

SED’s change in the cut scores for the grades 3-8 math and English language arts scores are just one part of a larger effort in New York to raise student achievement.

Education Commissioner David Steiner and his colleagues have been traveling around the state over the last few weeks to not only forewarn of an expected drop-off in test scores, but also to share details on the state’s new push toward tests that are less predictable and more demanding.

In a press release on the SED Web site, SED Senior Deputy Commissioner John King said, “The data shows that schools responded to the assignment they were given—they worked hard to help students achieve standards as measured by the state tests that were being given at the time. And more students did, in fact, pass those tests. The problem is that those exams didn’t sufficiently test students’ abilities—the bar was set too low. But we’re changing that now. It’s time to end the annual debate over whether our tests have become easier and to put to rest questions about what it means to achieve proficiency in New York.”

In the same press release, Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch added, “For the past several years, we have seen more and more students scoring ‘proficient’ or better on our state tests. At the same time, however, their performance on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exam— the gold standard in testing— has remained essentially flat. We haven’t been testing the right things in the right ways.

‘Proficiency’ on our exams has to mean something real; no good purpose is served when we say that a child is proficient when that child is not. So we’re improving our assessments by raising cut scores, making the exams less predictable, testing more areas, and making the tests longer. But more rigorous exams are only one piece of the Regents broader reform vision— a vision that includes a more challenging curriculum, better training for teachers and principals, and a world-class data system. In short, we are lifting the bar to ensure that New York remains at the very forefront of the national effort to raise standards.”


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