In a letter on its way home to district parents and guardians, Cazenovia Superintendent of Schools Robert Dubik explains the effect new national learning standards could have on student scores in upcoming state exams.
As many of you know, students in grades 3-8 are preparing to take the New York state English language arts (ELA) and math exams in the coming weeks. These tests mark a time of transition in our schools, as this is the first year they will be based on the new Common Core Learning Standards. These are national learning standards that have been adopted by New York and states across the country.
What does this mean for our children?
The goal of the new standards is to help students better develop skills and gain exposure in the areas that matter most in the world that awaits them after graduation. The result is that students are being asked to learn new skills, concepts and different ways of approaching questions and solving problems. The new standards are reflected in an updated curriculum in our schools, and they will be reflected on the upcoming exams.
Because of the changes, state officials are already telling parents to expect a dip in student scores on the exams. Research and experience tells education leaders that this is normal. In fact, in Tennessee, where Common Core-aligned tests were given for the first time last year, scores dropped 30 percent from the year before. However, the pace of the changes taking place in our classrooms could make the test-taking experience frustrating for many of our students. During this time of transition, it will be important for us as educators and parents to understand that:
- It’s normal for students to feel a certain level of anxiety around any exams. As parents, do what you’ve always done – encourage your children to stay calm, take their time, review their work carefully, and do their best. Just as with anything students do in school, these exams are important and we want students to take pride in their performance.
- In terms of the scores, we will not be able to compare this year’s exams to last year’s exams in the way that we have in the past. Because the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves are different, any dip in student scores should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance.
Typically the scores on the tests help determine if students need extra help in math or ELA. We do not expect this to change, although the scores are one factor in this determination. As in the past, these assessments will not factor into a student’s grades for the year.
Please know that we remain committed to communicating with parents on the implementation of the new learning standards, the new exams, as well as student scores and what they mean. Cazenovia’s teachers and administrators will continue to work diligently to teach the skills that are measured by these exams through thoughtful and engaging lessons and activities.
State officials emphasize the fact that these new standards will ultimately strengthen instructional programs and that this year’s exams will serve as a baseline of student performance for us to build on in future years.
NYS Education Commissioner John King recently wrote: “Every time a college freshman takes a placement exam that first month on campus, he or she is being tested against the very expectations in the Common Core. Every time a high school graduate faces a daunting task on a challenging job (from the welder applying knowledge of fractions to the electrician reading the National Electrical Code), he or she is being tested against the Common Core. And quite frankly, our students are not doing well enough on those real world tests. Only about 35 percent of our students graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to be called college- and career-ready.”
The bottom line is that while we all put importance on a given year’s test results, the larger purpose of education is making sure that students have the skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to be successful in life. We are as committed to that as ever.
As always, feel free to contact your child’s teacher or principal if you have questions about the state exams or the new standards. In addition, please visit http://engageny.org/parent-and-family-resources for a variety of materials relating to the Common Core Learning Standards.
Thank you for your continued support and cooperation.
Robert S. Dubik
Superintendent of Schools