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More Local Students May Need Help With Higher State Standards

Bedford and Katonah Lewisboro schools will be reviewing supports in the wake of changes to state test scoring.

Local school districts are analyzing the latest results from state standardized tests and making plans to provide educational supports for an increased number of students falling below newly established proficiency levels.

On the plus side, average English and math scores earned by students in grades 3 through 8 were about the same as last year, and in some cases, higher—in both districts. But marks that would have met the standard last year are not enough to qualify students as proficient under the new system.

"This was all changed after the school year was completed and lessons were taught," said Drew Patrick, assistant superintendent for instruction for Bedford Central Schools. "It's going to be difficult to tell a child who worked hard all year and saw their raw score go up that they are not proficient."

How local students scored

Both Bedford Central and Katonah Lewisboro schools performed above state averages.

In Bedford, between 63.3 percent and 75.3 percent of students in each grade met or exceeded proficiency levels in English, as compared to 84 - 92 percent reaching level 3 and 4 last year. In math, students scored better, with 70.9 – 84.4 percent meeting or exceeding standards. The scores were a dramatic drop from the range of 92.1 – 97 percent achieving a "meet or exceed" in 2009, however.

Between 72.1 and 83.4 percent of Katonah Lewisboro students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded state English standards this year, as compared to over 90 percent of students reaching level 3 and 4 in 2009. Students did a little better on math tests, with 74.3 – 89.7 students meeting or exceeding standards in 2010, a decrease from over 90 percent of students last year.  

For a full breakdown by grade, view the state education report posted with this story.

Why the change?

Students need to be better prepared for the rigors of high school and college, New York state Education Commissioner David Steiner has said.

After reviewing studies relating poor performance on the tests in grades 3 through 8 to lower regents scores—and the need for college remediation down the road—the state Board of Regents changed the system so that students achieving proficiency levels earlier in their school careers would be on track to ensure success in high school and in college.

Newly defined scores don't mean that students who were previously scoring at the 'proficient' standard and are now labeled 'basic' have learned less, said John King, the state's senior deputy commissioner of education. "Rather, the lower numbers of students meeting the proficient standard reflects that we are setting the bar higher and we expect students, teachers, and parents to reach even higher to achieve these new targets."

The new standards

Students are scored on a four-level scale according to raw scores achieved on the tests. Under the new scale, level one does not meet standards; level two meets basic standards—defined as a level that gives students a 75 percent chance of earning a Regents score of 65, enough to earn a regents diploma; level three meets proficiency standards—a higher level putting kids on track for college succes, and level four exceeds standards.

In addition, the scores needed to achieve those levels were raised, resulting in more students classified at lower levels.

Statewide, 53 percent of students met or exceeded standards in English, and 61 percent met or exceeded standards in math. This compares to 77 percent for English, and 86 percent in math, in 2009.

K-L Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Roelle said though he applauded the commissioner's intent to raise standards, the timing didn't make sense because the district may not have budgeted for an increase in services. But, he said the district would support all students falling below the cut point.

"I want the board of education and community members to know that Alice Cronin, [assistant superintendent for instruction] and the elementary principals will re-tool how to look at the scores and we will know how to better prepare students. We will support all students that fall below the cut point." he said.

Patrick agreed, noting that most school administrators are returning from vacations mid-to-late August, and their priority was to focus on how to allocate resources to help children who have fallen below the new standards.

"We will do what we've always done to help individual students along, and we will make any curricular adjustments needed."

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