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NY 3-8 Test Scores Post Slight Gains, Southern Tier Lags Behind

New York students boosted their math scores this year, but English proficiency stayed steady at just over 30 percent.

Results are out from year three of New York’s Common Core tests. Students showed some progress in math, but not much change in English. The state hailed these results as progress, but in the Southern Tier the outlook is a little more complicated.

Statewide Gains

State Education officials admit there’s plenty of room for improvement on the Common Core-related tests, but they praised a seven percent increase in math scores since 2013. The percentage of students passing the English exams remains stuck at around 31 percent.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who just began her job in July, put the best face on data from year three of the state’s implementation of Common Core learning standards.

“I’m pleased to say that our numbers are moving in the right direction,” she said. Elia did concede she's not thrilled that around two thirds of students are still considered to be performing below or well below the standards. “Sure I would have liked [scores] to have greater growth,” she said. “Am I disappointed that they’re not? Yes.” Elia added that a big change in standards, as has occurred under Common Core, takes time.

The growing opt out movement had a big impact on the exams. Education officials say 20 percent of children statewide boycotted the tests. Elia says she’s talking to federal education officials about whether there will be sanctions against school districts where a large number of students skipped the tests.

The teacher’s union, New York State United Teachers, called the test results “meaningless”.

“They aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,” said NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn. “These test results are not reliable, valid or accurate indicators of either student learning or teacher effectiveness.”

Commissioner Elia counters that  there’s still valuable data from the 900,000 students who DID take the exams.

“It’s disingenuous to just say automatically that these test aren’t worth anything,” Elia said.

View from the Southern Tier

The Southern Tier saw big gains in math scores too, compared to 2013. In some counties, the portion of students scoring proficient jumped more than ten percent. In English, the picture’s not so rosy: many counties saw their scores decrease slightly.

Most Southern Tier counties trail state averages in both subjects, based on this year’s scores. Chenango county showed the biggest gap: about 10 percentage points lower. The exception was Tompkins county, which outperformed state averages in both subjects.

This year’s opt-out movement took a toll in the area – Cooperstown and Oneonta districts had more than half their students refuse the tests. That will make it hard to use these scores to gauge progress.