On state testing: Voorheesville is at the head of the class

VOORHEESVILLE — Of the Voorheesville students in grades three through eight who took the state’s required tests last spring, three-quarters showed proficiency in math and English, far outpacing the state average — of about 45 percent — as well as coming in tops for the area.

“We’re extremely proud of the success of our students and the quality of instruction from our teachers of course,” said Karen Conroy, director of curriculum for the Voorheesville Central School District, but the state has said that this year’s scores should not be compared with last year’s because of a change in the testing format.

“But you know, we’ve improved significantly,” she added. In 2017, sixty-three percent of Voorheesville students in grades three through eight were proficient in English; in math, it was 70 percent.  

This year’s switch from three days of testing to two reflects New York State’s replacing Common Core standards with the its own Next Generation Learning Standards.

Three years ago, the Obama administration replaced the No Child Left Behind legislation implemented during the Bush administration with the Every Student Succeeds Act, allowing states to develop their own learning standards.

In 2015, after one-fifth of New York’s public-school students boycotted Common Core testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo did an about-face and called for a revision of state standards, based on a task force’s findings.

The biggest objection from parents and teachers was that evaluations of teachers and principals was being tied to test scores. The state task force recommended a three-year hiatus of this practice, until the 2019-20 school year. Teachers’ unions had at first backed it to get federal Race to the Top funding, but then objected to the linkage.

Adopted in September 2017, the Next Generation Learning Standards lay out explicitly what students should be learning at each grade level, while revising and clarifying existing standards.

The new standards have a three-year rollout, so that teachers can receive training and learn the new standards. The new Next Generation Standards are scheduled to be fully implemented by September 2020, with student testing beginning in spring 2021, according to the state.

Of the 348 Voorheesville students in grades three through eight who were tested in math, 257, or 74 percent, were deemed proficient; 141 students, 41 percent, scored at the highest of four levels.

State scores are applied at four levels, with levels 3 and 4 indicating proficiency. At Voorheesville, 116 students, 33 percent, scored at Level 3 in math.

About 27 percent of eligible Voorheesville students refused to participate in the required math exam, according to the state.

In English, of the 370 students in grades three through eight who took the test, 285, or 77 percent, were deemed proficient; 110 students, 30 percent, scored at Level 4, while 175, or 47 percent, scored at Level 3 in English.

Twenty-eight percent of students did not take the required English exam, according to the state.

Statewide, in English, about 45 percent of the 966,661 students in grades three through eight who were tested, scored at the proficient level; in math, 44.5 percent of all test-takers, 931,449 students, were proficient.

The statewide test refusal rate was approximately 18 percent.

In The Enterprise’s coverage area:

— Berne-Knox-Westerlo: 50 percent showed proficiency in English, and about 7 percent opted out of the test; 44 percent were deemed proficient in math, and about 6 percent refused to take the test; and

— Guilderland: In English, 61 percent of students in grades three through eight who were tested scored at the proficient level, and about 13.5 percent refused to take the test; in math, 60 percent passed the exam, and about 14 percent did not take the required test.

Across the four counties and 41 school districts of the Capital Region, Voorheesville had the highest proficiency rate in both math and English.

Four districts — Mohonasen, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Brunswick, and Waterford — had a higher rate of test refusal in English than at Voorheesville.

In math, five districts — Mohonasen, Waterford, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Brunswick, and Scotia-Glenville — had a higher rate of refusal than Voorheesville.

Conroy was asked if the rate of students refusing to take the test was worrisome for the district.

“It is,” she said.

But, she added, with the caveat that this year can’t be compared to last year, more third- and fourth-graders took the English test, and scores went up.

“Sometimes you just have to wonder, with the opt-out rate, does that hold you back?” Conroy asked, and answered: “I’m not sure.” It may depend on the grade level or content area, she added.

Conroy also pointed out that a number of area schools don’t have their eighth-graders take the math exam, if they’ve already taken the Algebra assessment; 31 percent of eighth-grade Voorheesville students took the math test, and another 37 percent had taken the Algebra exam.


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