Fulton School Board Reviews Grades 3-8 Standardized Testing Results for 2015

FULTON, NY – The Fulton City Board of Education released and reviewed standardized testing results for grades 3-8 for the 2014-2015 school year at its September 29 meeting.

Elizabeth Conners, executive director of instruction and assessment, presented the assessment report’s results to the board and the meeting’s audience.

Overall, Conners emphasized the opportunity for growth and areas for improvement.

As quoted from the Executive Summary from the assessment report, “More students struggled on this years test than in the previous years. This is due to the change in expectation for NYS students with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. The Board of Regents adopted these standards in 2010, and teachers and principals have been working to make important changes in student learning over the past five years. These changes have already begun in the classroom, but our test results tell us that we have a great deal of work in front of us.”

Split into three categories, math and English language arts for grades 3-8 and science for grades 4 and 8, the results were made comparable to testing results for NYS and the county as well as in comparison to recent years including 2013, 2014 and this years 2015 results.

In addition, the results are broken down for students with low socioeconomic status as well as for students with disabilities.

All the results are presented in percentage of students that reached proficiency, meaning scoring on levels 3 or 4 on an overall grading scale of 1-4.

For grades 3-8 ELA overview, the Fulton City School District performed the same percentage of proficient students as the previous year, 21%. However, they performed at a lower rate than both the state, 31% and the county, 23%.

For grades 3-8 ELA overview, the students categorized as low socioeconomic status performed at the same percentage as the previous year, 11% whereas students with disabilities dropped from the 1% in the previous year to 0% in this years results.

Broken down by grade level and by each individual elementary school in the district, it can be seen that large gaps occur between schools and results.

For example, the 2015 ELA results for Grade 4 face significant gaps amongst schools. At Granby elementary, 42% of grade 4 students scored proficient, whereas Lanigan saw 25%, Fairgrieve saw 10% and Volney saw 9%.

“The gap is too large,” said Conners. “We are working on going in to see what is working at our most successful areas and collaborating that amongst the schools.”

Continuing with grade 4 ELA comparisons, the district as a whole performed 22% proficient, beating out the county results of 20% but still falling short compared to state results, 33%.

According to Conners, these results are in alignment with other small cities.

For the junior high level, grade 7 ELA results saw a decrease in overall percentage of students proficient, going from 23% last year to 21% this year. However, this number beats out the county result of 20% and still falls short of the NYS results, 29%.

Grade 8 ELA overview shows improvement for students, increasing the percentage of proficient scores from 27% last year to 30% this year. This number leaves the district slightly below county level, 31% and state level, 35%.

While ELA results showed fairly regular trends of decrease, the grades 3-8 math results shown by percentage of students proficient showed great improvement.

Proficient math students, much like ELA students, performed on levels 3 or 4 on a 1-4 grading scale for the state standardized tests.

“There’s been real growth in the area of math,” said Conners. “This is really something to celebrate. We should be celebrating this increase as we work to continue to implement common core.”

The Fulton City School District grades 3-8 overall saw increase from the 2012-2013 school year throughout the following 3 years. Starting in 2013 with a 22% proficient rate, to 2014 with a 25% proficient rate, students for 2015 came in at 31%, an overall 9% increase between these years.

Increases came for students in grades 3-8 categorized as low socioeconomic status as well moving from 13% proficient in 2013, to 17% proficient in 2014, to 21% proficient in 2015.

Students with disabilities in grade 3-8 throughout the district, however, saw a slight decrease from 4% proficient last year, to 3% this year.

One of the most notable areas of improvement was specifically that of grade 3 math performance.

While all elementary schools increased in percentage of proficient students with the exception of Granby elementary, the percentage of proficient students in grade 3 in the district, 47%, beat out the percentage of proficient students in the county and the state, both at 42%.

Lanigan Elementary in particular saw incredible growth, moving from 21% proficient in grade 3 math in 2014 to 63% proficient in 2015.

At the junior high level, grade 7 students in the district saw a decrease in the percentage of proficient students moving from 25% last year to 22% this year.

This number left grade 7 students scoring right on track with the county, both at 22%, but significantly lower than the state results at 35%.

Grade 8 students in the district on the other hand saw a significant increase in percentage of proficient students moving from 10% proficient last year to 17% proficient this year.

This 17% of proficient students left the grade 8 of the district out-performing the county at 15%, but still below the state at 22%.

Students with disabilities continue to perform below comparison to the county and the state in grades 3-8 math coming in at 3% proficient for the district compared to 5% proficient in the county and 11% proficient in the state.

Students categorized as low socioeconomic status made an increase in grades 3-8 math from 17% last year to 21% this year, but still fall short of the district at 22% and the state at 27%.

“Our students with disabilities is an area of concern with us, and we are working on looking into this area specifically. Along with our students in low socioeconomic status, there is work to do there as well,” said Conners.

While no state data has been released yet for grades 4 and 8 science results, the school district performed at a better percentage of proficient students than the county in both grades 4 and 8 and for all categories of students including students with disabilities and students in low socioeconomic status with only one exception.

The only area that the district did not produce higher science results than the county was for grade 8 science students with disabilities where 35% of students preformed proficient as compared to 37% of proficient students with disabilities in the county.

However, this specific category still saw an increase from the previous year from 29% in 2014 to 35% in 2015.

“Eighth grade has shown growth across the board,” said Conners, on a positive note.

Conners is adamant that the district will continue to look at programs and determine the strengths and weaknesses present and implement the necessary changes to improve growth.

She also affirms that the students individual results are just as pertinent and will allow teachers and administrators to look into the data kid by kid and make appropriate changes by an individual student standpoint.

While some people still argue the implementation of Common Core, the executive summary of the assessment report explains, “SED has made the change to the Common Core State Standards because we want every single one of our students to be on track for college and careers by the time they graduate from high school. Our former 2005 standards did not prepare all of our students for the 21st century college and careers.”

The summary goes on to explain that with these changes, the grade 3-8 assessments in ELA and math have changed significantly in the 2012-2013 school year in both format and level of difficulty.

While some people still argue the purpose of standardized testing as well, the introduction of the report states: “Standardized tests clearly serve two essential purposes for the teaching and administrative staff: 1) They allow for identification and monitoring of pupil progress in the development of academic skills, and provide data for interventions. 2) The test yields data that can be used in the planning, management, and evaluation of the educational programs in Fulton.”

Conners ensures that the results of these tests are helpful in identifying individual students in need of further assistance as well as areas that need further concentration in all areas of the district.