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July 31, 2013

Background information on Common Core standards and the new assessments

State release of 2013 grade 3-8 assessment results, August 7, 2013:

Common Core resources for families:

Background Information
  • The 2012-13 state exams completed by students in grades 3-8 in ELA and math in April 2013 marked a time of change in our schools, as they marked the first time the exams were based on the new Common Core Learning Standards.
  • New York is one of 46 states that have adopted the Common Core standards. The standards were developed out of a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. They are not an initiative of the Federal Government.
  • The goal of the new standards is to help students better develop skills and gain exposure in the areas that matter most in the world that awaits them after graduation. The result is that students are being asked to learn new skills, concepts and different ways of approaching questions and solving problems. The new standards are reflected in an updated curriculum in our schools, and are now reflected on state exams.
  • Because of the changes to curriculum and tests, state officials predicted we would see a significant drop in student scores on the exams. Research and experience tells education leaders that this is normal. The Common Core curriculum represents a more demanding set of knowledge and skills necessary for 21st century college and careers. A decline in scores is to be expected. In fact, lower scores have already been seen in other states where Common Core-aligned exams were given.
  • The 2012-13 test results cannot be compared those of 2011-12 or previous years. Because both the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves were different, any drop in student scores should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or in teacher performance.
  • As in the past, these assessments will not factor into a student's grades for the year.
    Niskayuna remains committed to communicating with parents on the implementation of the new learning standards, the new exams, as well as student scores and what they mean. Our teachers and administrators will continue to work diligently to teach the skills that are measured by these exams through thoughtful and engaging lessons and activities.
  • These new standards will ultimately strengthen instructional programs and that the 2012-13 exams will serve as a baseline of student performance for us to build on in future years.
  • While importance is placed on a given year's test results, the larger purpose of education is making sure that students have the skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to be successful in life. The district is committed to this goal and to preparing our students for the increasingly competitive world.
  • Although 74% of NY students graduated from high school in four years (in June 2012), SED calculates that only 35% of these graduates were "college and career ready." This is defined as students who graduated high school with at least a score of 75 on Regents English and 80 on a Math Regents, "which correlates with success in first-year college courses." In other words, the state's schools have more work to do to ensure our students are graduating with the skills they need to be successful. In comparison, Niskayuna's graduation rate in the June 2012 data was 96 percent, and its "college and career readiness" score was calculated at 67 percent in 2011.