OSWEGO, NY – The New York State Education Department has made significant scoring changes in grading the statewide proficiency tests.
These tests have been given regularly since 2005 to elementary and middle school students. However, theÂ changes will have an impact on test scores as well as present problems for school districts.
Oswego Superintendent of Schools Bill Crist said, â€œIf you look at the progress we have been making in the Oswego City School District from kindergarten through eighth grade we are showing annual gains in improvement.â€
He continued, â€œIf state tests that they are giving arenâ€™t really preparing students for life after school, meaning college or employment, then the test is invalid. The state is saying that the test isnâ€™t achieving the desired results and there needs to be an adjustment to the test and scoring to make students more competitive and allow them to achieve life long learning.â€
The restructuring of the scoring at this time is difficult for school districts.Â Crist explained, â€œThe timing isnâ€™t good in that we were given a set of criteria to operate in and then the state changes the scoring of the test. The good piece of this action by the state is that if there are students who canâ€™t perform at the college level because the state test isnâ€™t rigorous enough then we can identify those students at an earlier juncture of their educational careers.â€
Crist noted that the district will comply with the wishes of the State Education Department because â€œultimately it will be better for our students.â€
However, the district is faced with a couple of obstacles.
The new requirements will mean that more Academic Interventional Services will be needed as more students will be identified with not being â€œproficient.â€
Crist said, â€œAt the same time we are faced with increase costs in AIS we have to remember that there are reductions in state aid revenue and tax caps that are being proposed that will pull money away from local school district. The state is telling us to improve test scores yet they arenâ€™t providing any additional financial assistance.â€
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Cathy Chamberlain noted that the district teachers have been diligent in professional development and adopting programs that have assisted in improving the success rate of Oswego students.
Chamberlain explained the impact of the scoring change.
She said, â€œThis could mean that upwards to 50% of our students could theoretically need additional AIS services. Before that the figure might have been between 10% and 25%. This will mean that a larger population will be served as all students who arenâ€™t deemed proficient in state testing will receive assistance.â€
Explaining how this change in scoring affects the Oswego City School District, Chamberlain provided one example. She said, â€œWe currently planned on serving 40 students going into ninth grade math who needed Academic Services, but it is now 120 students.â€
She also explained, â€œWe canâ€™t compare last yearâ€™s numbers with this yearâ€™s numbers because the cut scores were changed by the state after the test was given. Typically children who consistently were â€˜3â€™sâ€™ will now be a â€˜2â€™ due to this. Our schools have been showing steady growth and even with the new formula in place all of our schools should remain off the School In Need of Improvement list. This is due to the dedicated efforts of our staff and administration.â€
The State Education Department has raised the bar on scoring the Math and English examinations and the Oswego City School District will continue to see that students move forward. The district has been dedicated to working to improve the test scores and has been quite successful.
All district officials agree that if the current tests are not suitable to gauge the desired levels of achievement that adjustments should be made so that children will be prepared for life after school.
Chamberlain summarized by saying, â€œOur top priority is to continue to enhance our instructional program so we are preparing all of our students for the 21st Century. We want to know that when our students go on to college and in life they are prepared and can meet with success.â€