The Rye City School District presented its annual student achievement report at a recent Board Meeting.
The Rye City School District presented its annual student achievement report at a recent Board Meeting. The report highlights students’ academic progress based on the New York State assessment results. These days, a lot of attention is paid to test scores by parents, media, and policymakers. Our parents, in particular, are more concerned than ever about test scores: how their children perform, how their schools fare, and how the Rye City School District compares to other similar school districts.
And they are right to be concerned, but how concerned should we really be? It is my belief, and the belief of many educators today, that test scores should really be seen as just one lens of many to evaluate student progress and teaching effectiveness. Other important measures are college acceptance rates, top college placements, Advanced Placement scores, the number of National Merit Scholars, and, yes, even the U.S. News & World Report rankings. In addition, great schools do so much more, by encouraging students to explore personal interests, enhancing artistic talents, and promoting sportsmanship to name a few. Viewed through all of these lenses, Rye City Schools do very, very well, amongst the top in the country.
Can Rye do better on test scores and should it? Absolutely. We are working hard to do so. Remember that Rye came a bit late to Common Core, a new set of standards that were adopted by the majority of states across the country. Implementing it is a process. Over the past two years, we have worked to align our curricula with those of the Common Core. While not all of the Common Core standards are new to the District, the placement of particular curriculum items may be different. For example, Common Core might dictate that geometry be taught in the second half of 4th grade, whereas our curricula have it being taught in the beginning of 5th grade. It doesn’t mean that our children weren’t learning geometry; they just weren’t learning it on the Common Core schedule. We continue to work to align our priorities with that of the Common Core testing timetables.
There is also good news in our test scores. When you look at our “exit years” test scores — scores from the last year of Elementary, Middle, and High schools — our scores are strong. We are getting students where they need to be in the end.
Test scores can and should be used as tools. We are using our District’s test scores to inform instruction. Our analysis of student results enables us to identify areas of strengths, encourage best practices across grade levels and address areas of weakness either for individual students or at the curriculum level if it appears to be a concern across the board. In this way, we are consistently using test results to modify and improve upon instructional practices.
In its proper balance, test scores are an important tool and should be used as an accountability measure. It should not be the single factor by which we judge success. As Diane Ravich, author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” notes, “The goal of education is not to produce higher scores but to educate children to become responsible people with well-developed minds and good character.”
— Dr. Frank Alvarez