City Teachers, Principals Brace for Low Test Scores

Monday, August 05, 2013 - 05:39 PM

The number of suspensions barely budged during the last school year, totaling more than 53,000. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Principals started getting test scores for their schools Monday, but they are not allowed to discuss the results before the state and city release them publicly on Wednesday. Nonetheless, word is spreading among anxious teachers and principals that the scores really did go down. One person close to the school system called it a "bloodbath."

The city and state have been warning the public that this year's tests were much harder, and that far fewer students are expected to pass. These tests were the first under challenging new standards called the Common Core.

Last year, about 50 percent of city students were proficient in reading and 60 percent were proficient in math. Chancellor Dennis Walcott has warned that figure could fall by about 30 points.

"My principal is quite upset," one elementary school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. The teacher, referring to the teachers union and the city Department of Education, added, "One teacher said the UFT should sue the DOE for psychological damage on kids!"

Teachers also say they are hearing that far more students are winding up at the lowest level on the new exams. The test results are still divided into levels 1 through 4, with levels 3 and 4 signifying students who meet or exceed proficiency. But the scoring system is entirely different.

The new Common Core emphasizes more vocabulary words and longer reading passages for younger students. Many teachers have said they did not get enough support to prepare, and the tests were given before schools had a chance to order new curricula. 

But city officials have said they offered training and online materials, and say schools they will not be punished for low scores.

"It's not about how many pass," said Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky. Instead, he said the real question is about figuring out how to ensure students meet standards in each grade that will get them on track for college and careers. He said this year is just a baseline.

"Over time young people are going to rise to this challenge," he added.


Matthew Schuerman


Comments [5]

David in NYC from New York City

My son was in 4th grade at an NYC public school and he found the tests "easy" and said he had plenty of time. I should note that we limit his video game playing and television watching during the week, routinely play educational games with him, read not to him but with him, encourage a healthy appreciation of arts and music, take him to museums and science fairs and actively participate in his schooling. We are a middle class family -- probably lower middle class by Manhattan standards. Very little of what I mentioned above cost money. School is supposed to be hard, and a parent's job is to prepare them for it and to encourage curiosity and a love of learning in the child. Further, kids should be prepared to know that there are lots of tests in life of all different kinds, and some they will do well at and some they will fail and all they can do is prepare and remember that their self worth comes from inside. It is my opinion that the drama about these tests has been blown way out of proportion -- mostly and sadly for misguided political reasons.

Aug. 06 2013 03:02 PM
Brian from LI, NY

This is great. All these low scores will come in and schools have what, 4 weeks to "adjust instruction" so these students don't bomb these phony tests next spring. So glad we "opted out" our son. We will continue to do so and will fight these intrusions into local education. Do parents and educators even know what is coming this year and next? Bet not. If you live in NY or one of the 26 states that signed up for it...look up PARCC. Everyone else look up SBC or Smarter Balanced Consortium. Absolute nonsense all tied to politics and money. None of this is tied to making our children better learners. Life-long learners. We enrolled our middle one for kinder this summer and were "required" to fill out a 7 page questionnaire. Guess what company name was stamped all over the form? Pearson. We refused to complete it as the questions were completely inappropriate for kinder enrollment. The school could not tell us why it was needed. Wake up parents and educators and speak up!

Aug. 06 2013 12:52 PM
Paula McGirr from Western NY State

A point that NOBODY is making that I hope the media takes up - These tests were much harder and students were not given more time (less, actually). On top of that, students had field test questions included within the exam (trial questions for upcoming tests, given by the test publisher and not counted for the score). They didn't know which questions were real and which were the field test questions. Students were not given extra time and because of the field test questions, could not complete the tests in the time allowed. They left questions unanswered because the publisher wanted to try out questions. Now these students will be required to have academic intervention services.

Aug. 06 2013 12:34 AM
Kathleen knauth

BATS are flying.

Aug. 05 2013 11:01 PM
Renee Dinnerstein

The test questions should be made public. Then parents would know WHY the childrens' scores dropped. They would see that it's not the fault of the children OR of the teachers. It's the fault of a disgraceful test.

Aug. 05 2013 10:12 PM

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