Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dr. Ken Mitchell, Superintendent of South Orangetown Central School District wrote the following letter to his district's parents and community members regarding the 2013 NYS test scores. Dr. Mitchell is the president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents.

August 9, 2013

Dear Parents and Community Residents,

You may have seen in the media an overview of the latest student assessment results reported by the State Education Department. Earlier this year, students in grades three through eight were required to participate in New York State’s English language arts and math assessments. These assessments were based upon the new more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards, which were introduced in the 2012-2013 school year.

Prior to the implementation of these assessments, school officials throughout New York expressed strong concerns to the State Education Department and the Commissioner of Education, John B. King. Jr., regarding the validity of the assessment outcomes. These concerns were validated in a memo from Commissioner King dated August 2, 2013. In that memo, he stated, “Scores are expected to be significantly lower than the 2011-2012 scores…effectively creating a new baseline measurement of student learning.”

We believe the significant decrease in this year’s assessment results, experienced across the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State, is not attributable to a decline in student performance, but instead, reflect the fact that the assessments were prematurely implemented before students could be effectively instructed in the new, more rigorous, Common Core Learning Standards curriculum. While the SED established the cut scores, which determined the new proficiency levels, it should be further noted that it is impossible to accurately compare student progress using prior year’s assessment results.

In reviewing the assessment data, we also find it quite interesting that New York State’s Commissioner of Education cites success on the Regents exam as an example of college and career readiness. If that is the case, we are puzzled about the following:

108 eighth grade students took the Integrated Algebra Regents Exam with 100% passing and 90% at mastery. The average score was an 89%. Out of the 108 students who passed the Regents, 24 of them did not reach proficiency on the NYS Grade 8 Math test. How can it be that middle school students excel on a high school Regents exam yet do not achieve proficiency on the basic Math 8 assessment? How can students be “college and career ready” on one New York State exam yet not on the other? Something’s amiss.

We strongly believe there is no correlation between these latest assessment results and our students’ ability to be college and career ready. In addition to results on Regents and Advanced Placement exams, this opinion is supported by the high percentage of recent graduates attending many of the most prominent and prestigious colleges and universities in the country, as well as the significant recognitions our students achieved on all grade levels during this past school year.

Our district has paid close attention to the State Education Department’s plan to rapidly roll out these assessments. While we have provided staff with some initial training and revised some curriculum, we have strongly discouraged a “test-prep” regimen that district leadership believes could diminish the quality of instruction.

We take great pride in the quality education we provide to all students in South Orangetown. This year’s 3-8 assessment results are not an accurate reflection of our students’ ability to learn or on the instructional skills of our professional staff.


Ken Mitchell, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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