The state’s sudden change in scoring its statewide grades 3 through 8 tests dealt a cruel blow to some students and possibly a very expensive blow to school districts, including Fulton.
New York’s Board of Regents recently changed its benchmarks for determining whether a student’s score on the math and English exams show progress or not. The Regents said that the state’s math and English scores were too high, when compared to the federal standards for the same subjects.
The Regents said that the federal standard “is a better predictor of graduation,” said Sandy Squires, Fulton’s Director of Instructional Support Services.
So the state re-scored all of the ELA and math exams given this year. Many students who scored in the proficient range under the old standard are now not proficient.
Before the rescoring, 1,242 Fulton students in the third through eighth grades were judged to be proficient on the English Language Arts exam. After the rescoring? Just 884 students scored in the proficient range.
On the math exam, there were similar results. 1,380 students scored in the proficient range before the rescoring, but only 844 were still proficient afterwards.
“This is a mid-course change for us. It’s a dramatic change,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch.
Squires said other school districts in the county suffered even greater shifts.
This change might have been about the last thing school districts wanted this year, a year in which sharply lower state aid has forced schools to cut their budgets, staff and programs.
That’s because the students who are in the not-proficient categories usually must receive extra academic help to get their scores up.
Board of Education member Brian Hotaling complained that the scoring switch “changes the playing field in the middle to cost us money we don’t have.”
Lynch explained that the state may waive the requirement for academic intervention services for students who fell into non-proficiency as a result of the scoring change.
However, there may not be a cure for the way the scoring change affects the district’s federal scores under the No Child Left Behind act.
Scores that show a lack of yearly progress — and the changed scores wipe out any improvement the district saw between 2009 and 2010 — could force the district into an expensive program of mandated changes.
Lynch complained that the Regents’ changes could have been made in increments to avoid this kind of large-scale disruption. “We’ve been making really good progress,” he said. “Now they’ve changed things.”
“I think this is the first step towards year round schools,” said board member Rae Howard.
“We’re going to have a lot of frustrated parents and students,” agreed board member Robbin Griffin.