By Diane Phelan
During the spring of 2015, students within the Diocese of Brooklyn participated in the annual New York State Testing Program in fourth, sixth and eighth grades.
As depicted in the chart below, which reflects all students tested in the state, city and diocese in 2015, we are pleased to see that diocesan students outpaced the New York City public schools in all tested areas. The chart shows the percentage of students scoring at Levels 3 and 4 (meets or exceeds NYS proficiency standards).
As compared to the state, we outperform in most areas with the exception of math in grades four and six, however, we are closing the gap when we compare test scores over the past three years. We do acknowledge our accomplishment that almost half of our grade 8 students were proficient in ELA (47.6 percent) based on the more rigorous state tests as opposed to about a third (34.7 percent) of the state’s eighth grade students.
According to the N.Y.S. Education Department, approximately 20 percent of eligible test takers did not participate in the 2015 tests. Within the Diocese of Brooklyn, approximately 1 percent of students did not participate in state testing. The reason for our high participation rate is because of the way we use and analyze the state test results.
For example, these assessments provide information about students for parents and teachers about what a student knows and can do at a specific point in time and in a certain grade level. If needed, students are provided with remediation or additional support to help them achieve standards or students may also be provided with enrichment to help them excel in standards for their grade level.
Tool to Improve Instruction
State testing within the Brooklyn Diocese has always been seen as a tool used for diagnostic purposes and for providing professional development to our teachers who continually strive to improve instruction and learning for all their students. Principals also gain important insights about their school’s/academy’s ELA and math programs based on the test data. As instructional leaders, principals determine instructional priorities, monitor student academic growth and provide needed resources for the school year based on state testing.
Parents are kept well informed regarding how their child scored on state tests and receive individual student score reports in ELA and math for any student who participated in state testing and had completed all test booklets associated with the test. These reports are distributed at the academy/school level and provide parents with information about their child’s performance on these tests.
(click chart to enlarge)
Three years have passed since New York State began to assess students based on the more rigorous state standards. Over the past three years, it is evident that diocesan students are making progress in ELA and math. We are making progress because of all the hard working principals, teachers and students in our academies and schools. We are also making progress because of our parents who are our partners in learning and are supportive of our academies and schools.
The state has also helped educators by releasing resources including test guides prior to the state tests and releasing approximately 50 percent of the test questions following the state tests. Principals and teachers are provided with instructional reports each September to improve teaching and learning for all students within the diocese who participate in state testing.
Of course, there is always room for improvement in all we do and certainly the state test results show that we are all a “work in progress.”
According to our newly appointed State Education Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, “Although there remains much work to be done, we are seeing positive results.”
As we look forward to the years ahead, New York State is phasing in a requirement that high school students, beginning with the Class of 2022, will need to pass Regents Exams at the proficient/college and career ready level. The Class of 2022 is currently our sixth graders who are in our academies and schools in this 2015-2016 school year.
For students graduating high school before 2022, students scoring at Level 2 and above are on track for current graduation requirements. Students scoring on Level 3 and above are on track to graduate at the college and career ready level.
Finally, the state has hired a new testing company for the 2017 tests, namely, Questar Assessment. State education leaders have also stated that tests will be computer-based beginning in 2020 for all students.
However, for students within the Diocese of Brooklyn, we are confident that we will continue to make steady progress and strive for excellence.
Phelan is the associate superintendent for evaluation of programs and students in the Diocese of Brooklyn.