Catholic Schools Week 2017

Diocesan Students Make Gains On New York State Tests

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By Diane Phelan

Students within the Diocese of Brooklyn showed gains on the spring 2016 N.Y.S. math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests. Overall, a larger percentage of students in grades four, six and eight scored at the proficient levels (Levels 3 and 4) in both math and ELA in 2016 as compared to the 2015 tests.

Academies and schools within the diocese once again surpassed the N.Y.C. public schools in all tested grades in ELA and math (see chart at right). As compared to the state, the diocese outperforms in most areas with the exception of math in grades four and six, which show a marginal difference. More than half of the grade four and grade eight students in the diocese were proficient in ELA, and substantially outpaced both the state’s and the city’s results.

The State Education Department made several changes to the 2016 ELA and math tests. These changes included: a new test vendor, Questar, reducing the number of questions on the ELA and math assessments and allowing students who are productively working to complete their tests.

According to the State Education Department, while the content of the 2016 tests and previous year’s tests are comparable and similarly rigorous, it is not possible to make direct comparisons of the 2016 results to prior years’ results because of changes to the 2016 tests.

Principals and teachers received instructional reports for the 2016 state tests to help understand and guide instruction and classroom assessments. Parents received score reports with a breakdown of their child’s performance in different skill areas within ELA and math.

Reports help parents understand where their child is doing well and in what areas he or she may need additional support. Parents can use these results to guide discussion with their child’s teacher about progress in the classroom and ways to provide support at home.

The state released 75 percent of the 2016 math and ELA multiple-choice test questions that counted toward students’ scores and released 100 percent of the constructed-response questions. Principals and teachers can use the information to examine student skills and identify where student learning is strong and where there are gaps.
The released questions from the tests are available to the public at

Test Refusal Rates

In terms of the test refusal rate, the State Education Department reported that approximately 21 percent of eligible test takers did not participate in the 2016 tests. Within the diocese, approximately 2 percent of students did not participate in state testing. The reason for the high participation rate is because of the way the diocese uses and analyze the state test results.

For example, state assessments are considered diagnostic tests and there are no negative consequences when taking state tests as they are not recorded on a permanent record card or a report card. State law forbids the use of state test results as the determining factor in promotion.

The State Education Department has announced plans to have computer-based ELA and math testing by 2020, and new science assessments in grades five and eight by the 2020-2021 school year.

Phelan is associate superintendent for evaluations in the diocesan Office of the Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services.


Related: Diocesan Students’ 2015 NYS Test Results