Message from Commissioner King
This week, we are releasing the results of the April 2013 grades 3-8 math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments. This year's state assessments are the first for New York students to measure the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the State Board of Regents in 2010. As expected, the percentage of students deemed proficient will be significantly lower than in 2011-12. This change in scores -- which will effectively create a new baseline measurement of student learning -- is largely the result of the shift in the assessments to measure the Common Core State Standards, which more accurately reflect students' progress toward college and career readiness.
There are those who will use the change in students' proficiency rates to attack teachers and principals. That's just plain wrong. I've said over and over again: the change in proficiency rates does not mean teachers are teaching less or that students are learning less than last year. That's why we've made sure the scores will not negatively impact teacher, principal or school accountability. No new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority schools based on 2012-13 assessment results. The student growth scores used in teacher and principal evaluation will result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category (Highly Effective, etc.) for student growth in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12, despite the change in students who score at proficiency. This is in large part because the State's student growth model takes into consideration changes in student performance compared to "similar" students (i.e. students with similar characteristics and academic histories). Therefore, all educators will have a chance to do well, regardless of the changing rigor of the test.
Last week, I sent a memo to school district superintendents across the state, reminding them that this is the first year of the new assessments and recommending judicious and thoughtful use of each measure of the State's multiple measures evaluation system.
The new assessments are a much better, more accurate tool for educators, students, and parents as they work together to prepare students for 21st century colleges and careers. The results are consistent with other indicators of the college and career readiness of New York State students, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), NYS student performance on the SAT and PSAT, and college and career ready scores on New York State's high school Regents exams.
Chancellor Tisch has said these scores represent a new baseline and a new beginning. We have just finished the first year of a dramatic shift in teaching and learning. The Chancellor and the Board of Regents understand that teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards have worked extraordinarily hard to implement the Common Core. They also understand that with the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers - the best teaching force in the country - will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century.
I understand these scores are sobering for teachers and principals. It's frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity. The results we've announced today are not a critique of past efforts; they're a new starting point on a roadmap to future success. Our students face very real challenges. But it's better to have our students challenged now - with caring teachers there to help -- than frustrated later when they start college or try to find a job and discover they are unprepared.
Over the last year, I've traveled all across the state, visiting hundreds of classrooms, meeting hundreds of teachers, watching first-hand as they implemented Common Core. I know how hard you work to help your students succeed.. We want to support that work. That's why we've been building strong supports and resources on www.EngageNY.org. You might find some of them particularly useful, including:
A Parent Toolkit to help you communicate with parents about the Common Core and why NYS has chosen to move in this direction;
The TriState rubric for evaluating curriculum materials against the Common Core;
A video series on the instructional Shifts demanded by the Common Core;
Videos of Common Core instruction from across New York State;
A Video of a speech I recently made on the standards and their importance;
Curriculum modules and resources to support your own professional development around their use;
Assessment design materials;
Resources to better understand the 3-8 assessments and results, including annotated test items to be posted later this week; and
A set of expectations and metrics for the work of teachers, principals, superintendents, Network Teams, and District Superintendents.
We've also included a number of resources for parents to help them understand the importance of the Common Core and to help them communicate that importance to their children. Please make sure you visit the EngageNY site often. New resources and videos are added almost daily.
We all share the same goal: to make sure all students in New York have the skills and knowledge to be successful in college and careers. With the Common Core, we're building a ladder toward that goal. The assessment scores are a measure of where our students are on that ladder and give us all a clearer, more accurate picture of the climb ahead.
Dr. John B. King, Jr.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnKingNYSED