BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Wednesday underscored her support and the state’s support for higher standards despite the fact that 20 percent of all eligible students opted not to take standardized tests in English and Math last spring.
New York State Department of Education released the state assessment results Wednesday which showed “incremental progress” in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math tests since 2013, the year that the state adopted the more rigorous learning standards known as Common Core.
The opt-out percentages are included in the assessment data released Wednesday.
The new learning program triggered a backlash across the state as parents and teachers protested the tests. Teachers especially objected because the tests were supposed to be used to evaluate their performance.
Statewide, 20 percent of students opted out of the tests compared to five percent last year.
OPT OUTS | See opt out percentages per district here.
West Seneca is among the top 10 districts statewide with 72 percent opting out of math tests and 71 percent of its students opting out of English tests.
There were 26 districts in Western New York with at least 40 percent of students opting out of math tests. Half of them had at least half of students opting out including West Seneca: Evans-Brant (Lakeshore: 63 percent Math, 61 percent English); Franklinville (60 percent Math, 53 percent English); Frontier (58 percent Math, 56 percent English); North Tonawanda, (57 percent Math, 52 percent English); Iroquois (56 percent Math, 58 percent English); Depew, (54 percent Math; 46 percent English); Fredonia (53 percent Math, 50 percent English); North Collins (53 percent Math, 48 percent English); Hamburg, (52 percent Math, 49 percent English); Lackawanna (52 percent Math, 40 percent English); Wilson, (52 percent Math, 49 percent English); Royalton-Hartland (50 percent Math, 43 percent English).
In a conference call with reporters, Elia said the 20 percent that opted out of the tests did not affect the validity of the testing.
She said the tests were taken by 900,000 of the 1.1 million eligible students and their results will help educators pinpoint who needs help.
“I support high standards for students to prepare them for college and career,” she said.
“We have to raise standards and help children get there.”
She also directed stern language at Buffalo which showed proficiency scores below the state average. Buffalo posted the best gains in math with 5.5 percentage point gain over three years.
Buffalo’s math scores improved from 9.6 percent proficient in 2013 to 13.1 percent in 2014 and 15.1 percent in 2017. In English, Buffalo’s performance was largely flat over three years with 11.5 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent in 2014 and 11.9 percent in 2015.
“I would not be pleased with the scores in Buffalo and I would be working, as I am sure the board and the educators in Buffalo are aware, they have a lot of work to do, and they need to get focused on it to support students in that city.”
Statewide, the state said the results “remained consistent” in 2015 with 31.3 percent scoring at the proficient level (levels 3 and 4) in English compared to 30.6 in 2014 and 31.1 in 2013.
In math, students tested seven percentage points higher in 2015 compared to 2013.
The percentage of students at proficiency in 2015 was 38.1 percent compared to 36.2 in 2014 and 31.1 in 2013.
Elia described the results as a “slight improvement.”
She said she would have liked to see greater gains but that she expected educators will use the data to determine the areas needing improvement.
One of those areas is helping black and Hispanic students whose performance improved slightly this year but face a significant achievement gap compared to white and Asian students.
English language learners also make small gains but their scores also lag other students.