Understanding NYS Test Results

I know many parents and teachers out there are wondering how so many of their students scored so “poorly” on those ELA and Math assessments. I took some time to compare the state proficiency levels (those number indicators – Level 1, 2, 3, or 4) to standard scores on a bell curve to shed a little more light on the subject.

Basically, what I found was that the proficiency levels, by no means, represent equal quarters; rather, the scores that fall below the expected proficiency levels (i.e., Levels 1 & 2) make up nearly 75% of all student scores across the state. That means that a 6th grade student that scored better than 71% of other 6th grade students across the state on the NYS Math Assessment still fell in Level 2. By the state standards, this means that this Above Average student failed the test. It also means that only ~25% of students “passed” the test based on these standards that are based solely on expectations that have not been tested.

Check out the attached graph.bell curve- state test

Common Core Woes…

With the state releasing the broad numbers for the latest New York State ELA & Math state assessments for grades 3-8, the common core curriculum is becoming increasingly popular in the media. A great article was written by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post which highlights many issues surrounding the common core assessments, which can be read below:


One section that I have found to be a particularly common perspective on this issue is quoted below:

“The bottom line is that there are tremendous financial interests driving the agenda about our schools — from test makers, to publishers, to data management corporations — all making tremendous profits from the chaotic change. When the scores drop, they prosper. When the tests change, they prosper. When schools scramble to buy materials to raise scores, they prosper. There are curriculum developers earning millions to created scripted lessons to turn teachers into deliverers of modules in alignment with the Common Core (or to replace teachers with computer software carefully designed for such alignment).”

While I am 100% for improving the education system in our country, I think it’s a shame that new tests increase parent concerns, teacher anxiety (and, in turn, student anxiety), and a general negative perception of schools.

I have worked in an elementary school for the past 5 years now and I am still shocked by the work that these young children are doing. As a school psychologist, I love data. It’s quick and simple. I can glance at it and get a general idea if something worked or not; however, standardized tests don’t tell us everything that we should know about a student. If your child bombs a state test, that doesn’t mean he or she developed a learning disability overnight. It means a “standardized test” raised the expectations.

If the state and testing companies really cared about our students, they would release the results to parents in a straight-forward approach (Bell Curve, anyone?). Tell me the average range based on the students that took the test, and then tell me where each kid fell on that curve. Were they right in the middle of the pack? Were they at the 13th percentile?

Well, I’m done ranting now. Check out the links below for more information!