Some gains in ELA & Math for Buffalo students

Sep 26, 2018

State-wide test results for students in 3rd through 8th grade show an increase in Math and English Language Arts scores.  The New York State Education Department (NYSED) released new numbers Wednesday. But as WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us, this year’s assessment scores can't be compared to last year's results.

“You cannot compare this year’s scores to last year,” declared New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

Elia held a conference call with reporters. She said content changes and reductions were made to the assessments that included cutting the testing days from three to two and changing the number of questions and does not allow a comparison between 2017 and 2018 results.

“That would be an inappropriate thing for anyone to do,” explained Elia. “You can’t do it. It’s not valid and I’m not doing it.” However, Elia noted it does not mean this year's results are not "meaningful."

Buffalo Public School students.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Statewide, 45.2-percent of students, who took the ELA test were at proficient levels. In math, 44.5-percent were proficient. For full results click here.

Still, significant achievement gaps remain for black and Hispanic students.  Abja Midha is deputy director of The Education Trust New York.

“The education system in New York State is not doing enough for Latino, black, low-income students to be on track for college and career readiness. Only about one in three right now are on track,” relied Midha.  

Elia said the 2018 results allow NYSED to see if they are achieving equity in education. “To see how they can target supports and services for students,” noted Elia.  

Buffalo Public School children increased in their results in both Math and ELA. Rochester has the lowest rates in the state.  For 2018, Buffalo city students were 23.4-percent proficient in ELA, Grades 3-8 in this year’s testing. Again, those scores can’t be compared to last year’s 17.8 percent rate.

Buffalo Public School District results in ELA.

In Math, city school students were 21.0 percent proficient in math in Grades 3-8 for 2018. 

Buffalo Public School District results in Math.

"Approximately 12,800 Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) students were assessed last spring from 3rd to 8th grade on New York State tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. In English Language Arts, BPS students scoring proficient or advanced on the NYS ELA test increased by 5.6% to 23.4%. In Mathematics, the percentage of Grades 3-8 BPS students scoring proficient or higher increased by 3.8%, to 21%. Many BPS schools made notable increases in performance, including Receivership Schools," stated Buffalo Public Schools in a news release.

The State Education Department and Board of Regents have been preparing new standards, replacing the controversial Common Core Learning Standards. But the new standards won’t become part of the assessments until 2021.

“And yes, we are moving forward on the implementation of the new standards,” said Elia. “Teachers are driving the development of questions and determining what questions are going to be on the tests.  Our teachers have become the driving force in decision making related to the assessments.”

Commissioner Elia was also asked about if results were affected by some glitches in students who took the ELA’s and math on computers in 2018.  Elia said the rules to match assessment from paper to pencil to computer base change. There were some malfunctions on some computers. 

Buffalo Public School students.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Elia said the test company, Questar, was “held accountable for the problem.  Over 145,000 students across the state took testing on computers this year. 

“That’s up substantially from last year,” Elia said.  “There was a difference in the test scores and I will say to you, that happens automatically. “We know some of the issues we had.”  

Opting out numbers were also lower this season. Fewer students also opted out of this year's state tests.  

“The test refusal rate went down compared to last year,” noted Elia.