By Bob Zahm
Each year New York State conducts standardized testing in English (English Language Arts) and Math at all public elementary and middle schools. Third through eighth graders take the tests over two days in the spring, and the results are generally made available in August. The tests are intended to provide information to parents and the public about how effectively our schools are instructing New York students.
There is good news to report for the Rye City School District. The 2017 standardized test rankings have significantly improved for English, with the District moving from 12th to 6th place in Westchester County. In Math, the District rose from 15th to 11th place.
Outside of Rye City, the top five Westchester Districts are virtually the same as last year. The top four districts in ELA and Math mastery are unchanged – Bronxville, Chappaqua, Scarsdale, and Edgemont. Irvington earned the 5th slot in ELA mastery, and Katonah Lewisboro (replacing Briarcliff) the slot in Math.
Like the top five Westchester School Districts, Rye has also improved its absolute rate of student mastery as seen in both the ELA and Math test results. Rye City’s performance of 69.9% in English means that approximately 30% of students are not mastering the curriculum. Similarly, roughly 27% of Rye City students are not mastering the Math curriculum.
In comparison to overall New York State performance, Rye City and Westchester County continue to do well, with local students passing the ELA and Math exams at a much higher rate than across the State and County.
Rye City Elementary School performance continues to vary significantly across grades within schools, as well as within grades across schools. The only discernable pattern is at Midland, where two years of top performance has taken place starting with third grade in 2014 moving up to fifth grade in 2017. Absent a detailed look at the instruction provided and materials used, it is unclear if this success was due to teaching methods or is the function of a group of highly performing students.
The Rye City School District plans to provide their assessment of the test results and associated actions at the October 24 School Board meeting.
The District is pleased with the direction the most recent test results have taken. However, there are some doubts about the usefulness of the tests as a vehicle for assessing actual student mastery and identifying areas for improvement. The doubt is linked to the quality of individual test questions as well as the degree of coverage of the curriculum provided by the tests.
The District’s strategy for improving student mastery in English and Math has two primary components. First, enhance teacher and administrator professional development through focused training plus coaching. Second, ensure that students are strong readers and writers – critical skills for both the English and Math tests.
- Tom McDermott and Peter Jovanovich