Poor statewide results showing low levels of elementary student proficiency in English and math should be viewed as a window into what students have truly learned. Or, in this case, have not learned.
Many students are not hitting their educational target, and that is unacceptable and dangerous for society. Aging baby boomers should be the most concerned about poor test results of young people who will one day take care of them. So far, the picture is not rosy.
On Wednesday, the State Education Department released standardized test results based on recently adopted Common Core learning standards. The results showed alarmingly low proficiency rates for students in grades three through eight. Statewide, only 31 percent met or exceeded the proficiency standards this year.
Erie and Niagara counties fared just as poorly as the state and local districts, particularly Buffalo which, at 10 percent, did even worse. Although Buffalo managed to outpace Rochester’s 5 percent and Syracuse, it still lagged behind New York City and Yonkers.
The poor results were predicted and do not necessarily paint a grimmer picture than New Yorkers saw before. These tests are harder and were expected to produce low scores.
The bottom line showed more empirical evidence of what many already know about failing schools. And it showed what many already know about successful school districts like Williamsville and Buffalo’s City Honors, a school with high admission criteria.
Last year, more than half of students statewide were able to meet standards, but this is a new day. The target has moved higher and more in line with today’s global competitive field.
Common Core learning standards have been adopted by 45 states. New York is following Kentucky in beginning standards testing based on the new learning model. The model focuses on curriculum, instruction, and student thinking and reasoning skills. It represents a new beginning.
The criticism by many education leaders of the state’s decision to begin testing on the new Common Core standards when most other states have elected to wait is misplaced. So are complaints about having to carry out the tests in the midst of mandates to develop and implement complex and demanding procedures for teacher and principal evaluations.
The more than $1 billion in state and federal money spent on professional development and teacher training over the last three years should be sufficient. And as for implementing the tests, the time to evaluate is now.
The current challenge remains on how to provide the proper education in Buffalo and other low-performing school districts. Much of student improvement centers on better teacher training and the ability of principals to run and turn around their schools.
Moreover, Buffalo school officials have to do a better job of filling out and sending in applications for state aid and required school turnaround models.
Adults must do better. Start by believing students can achieve at high levels, ensure students meet and exceed rigorous educational challenges and utilize the available tools from social service agencies and state education officials.
As State Education Commissioner John King Jr. said, “The assessment results today establish a new baseline for student performance and student learning in New York State.” Buffalo – and all school districts – must show improvement next year.