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NY test scores drop following new learning standards

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The standardized test results for the new Common Core curriculum were released on Wednesday, showing low scores in math and English Language Arts for students in grades three through eight.

Only 31 percent of the state's students were proficient in math and English Language Arts. Last year 55 percent of students tested proficient in English and two out of every three students met or exceeded the math standard.

It's the first time students were tested based on the new, rigorous Common Core curriculum, adopted by the state to better prepare students for higher education. In 2012, only 35 percent of high school graduates in New York State were deemed college and career ready.

The drop is a source of frustration for teachers and parents, but school officials are saying the scores shouldn't be compared because the curriculum and tests are completely different from last year.

"I don't think we should be intimidated by the test scores. That's the problem. If we view the test scores as a negative statement on students' thinking and learning, I think that would be a mistake. We need to understand that the test scores are a new benchmark for new expectations for college and career readiness," said Patrice Hallock, Associate Professor of Education at Utica College.

But with tougher tests, more students are falling below the level of proficiency. If a student receives less than a three on the test, they must receive Academic Intervention Services. In the Utica public school system, 63 percent of students K through 12 already receive A.I.S.

"We have 83 percent on free or reduced lunch which is an indicator of how many students are economically disadvantaged. We have a high number of students with disabilities, a high number of students that are English language learners," said Lori Eccleston, Administrative Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Teachers said they're concerned students will be placed in A.I.S. that don't need it, ultimately diminishing resources for students who do.

The administrative director of curriculum and instruction K-12 in Utica says they will provide extra A.I.S. and learning services with several grants and they will also work with parents to help children adjust to the new system.

"That's part of the new trend. Parents will be meeting with principals and staff throughout the year. Parents that don't speak English will be meeting with instructional coaches and translators and principals and teachers and they'll be guided through some of the strategies they can do at home," said Eccleston.

Some of those strategies include dedicated time at night for homework, ensuring kids read at night and getting kids socially and emotionally ready to learn.

Officials understand the widespread frustration, but say this curriculum is a necessary step that will pay off in the future.

"This is new, it's harder. Just give it a couple years and you're going to see growth. I think you'll see growth next year," said Sandy Paddock, Administrator for Testing Data and Analysis.

"It sounds scary, but it's a very exciting time in education because I think this is the dip right now and you can't skip that dip, but I think as time goes on over a five year period if you look down the road you will see things really starting to rise and I think it will become a mind set with teachers. Kids will be used to this way of instruction and kids will be more ready for the 21st century," said Eccleston.

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