ARMONK, N.Y. – Students in the Byram Hills Central School District will be put to the test this week.
Youngsters in grades 3 through 8 will begin taking the state’s English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments on Tuesday. But this year’s version of the test is going to be different, and more challenging, than years past, education officials warn.
“The state has made it very clear that even the highest performing districts in the state will see a whole new cut-off for score standards,” said Byram Hills Superintendent Bill Donohue.
Byram Hills Assistant Superintendent Tim Kaltenecker said comparing this year’s scores to previous wo be very productive.
“They can’t even be compared,” he said. “This is essentially a ‘reset.’ New tests, new standards.”
Donohue agreed, saying, “Scores from this year won’t have anything to do with previous years.”
For the first time, New York state assessments will be based on the revamped Common Core Learning Standards, a series of benchmarks that have been adopted by 45 states. The goal is to develop more critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, state educators say, and evaluate students and teachers more rigorously.
“Students will be asked to read more difficult texts, to use evidence to support their arguments, and to perform multiple-step math problems," John King, the state's Commissioner of Education, said.
State officials say the standards were created through intensive research, mapping backwards from college and career success.
In a memo to education officials around the state, Ken Slentz, New York's deputy commissioner of P-12 education, said there will now be a new definition of “readiness” at each grade level.
The hope, he said, is that educators and parents will have an indicator of how students are performing and progressing toward college- and career-readiness.
“If students are to graduate high school fully prepared, they must meet the benchmarks set by the Common Core – at every grade and in every classroom,” Slentz wrote.
King warned students, parents and teachers not to be discouraged if they see scores drop.
“The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance," he said.
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