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State tests establish necessary standards

A recent letter decried the fact that, as the recently implemented state tests showed, across New York more than half of students fell short of proficiency and should receive remedial services. Like the writer, many others have expressed astonishment at the low rates of proficiency, looking for excuses on how students could have done so poorly. These individuals are looking for answers in the wrong places. The problems lay with what we expect from our students, not in how we measure their success. These new exams reflect the standards we should be using to measure our students.

The College Board reports that between 40 percent and 60 percent of first-year college students require remedial coursework. A State Education Department survey of SUNY and CUNY schools showed a similar rate. This essentially means that students are paying college tuition to take high school-level math and language arts courses because their high schools did not adequately prepare them for the rigor of college-level work.

It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that after the state assessments were adjusted to more accurately measure academic proficiency, the pass rate closely matches the portion of college students capable of immediately handling college coursework. The new standards are not too difficult or erroneous; they simply reflect the standard our students should be expected to meet in order to succeed in college or in a career.

Under the old standards, students were frequently unprepared for the rigor of college academics upon graduation. While college enrollment has consistently grown, graduation rates have largely remained unchanged. New York’s schools are not preparing their students adequately to meet the standards required to succeed. The new Common Core standards and aligned exams are a necessary first step to getting New York students to the next level.

Jason A. Zwara

Executive Director

Buffalo ReformED