News: New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, USNY


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Achievement in English in grades 3-8 has improved overall this year, according to 2009 test results announced today by Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.

Seventy-seven percent of students across grades 3-8 achieved the standards in English this year, compared with 68 percent last year. And across the various groups of students, fewer showed serious academic problems in English. Despite these improvements, many students are still not meeting the standards.

Testing of students in English in each grade, 3 through 8, began in 2006. Prior to that, students were tested only in 4th and 8th grade. In 2006, the Regents also adopted a grade-by-grade curriculum that sets clear expectations for instruction.   

The grade-by-grade tests, together with the individual student data system, enable the Department to track the academic growth of classes of students over time. It is now possible to see, for example, how students who were third graders in 2006 are performing this year as sixth graders. In the past, the Department was able to look only at specific grade levels and how those grade levels compared from year to year. Both types of data – growth over time as well as year to year comparisons – are being presented today.

"The Regents are committed to an open evaluation of data. We’ve therefore asked the Commissioner to examine today’s results in terms of the percentage of students meeting the standards as well as student growth over time," Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. "By focusing on scale scores, a clearer picture of student performance emerges.  That picture shows progress, but also points to the areas needing additional attention, particularly for children in the gap. "

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "These results show that the children who began the grade-by-grade curriculum in the early grades are making bigger gains than those who started later. And the children who took the third grade test this year performed better still –showing that state foundation aid, pre-K, and rigorous instruction are paying off. "

Today’s results indicate that students who began the 3-8 grade-by-grade curriculum in the early grades typically make bigger gains as they progress through school than did older students who started the grade-by-grade curriculum in later grades. Middle school performance, which was very low when the grade 3-8 curriculum began four years ago, has improved significantly over time – indicating that these students are better prepared to do high school-level work.

The results also show that while the percentage of students meeting the standards has gone up significantly, average scale scores show only moderate improvements as students progress from one grade to the next. The average student scale score across all grades, 3-8, increased by only four points this year, as compared with three points last year and two the year before that. Over time, many students have improved their performance enough to move over the line from Level 2 to Level 3, indicating proficiency. But the increase in the average scale score for those students over time was often smaller.

Among the reasons credited for the overall progress of students on the English exams are the following:

The achievement gap in English continues to slowly close, and similar trends are emerging for different groups of students over time. Following are some examples:

New York’s testing system, including the grade 3 through 8 tests passed a rigorous peer review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, distinguished national experts on the state’s Technical Advisory Group meet regularly to review all aspects of New York’s assessment system; that group said that the State used commonly accepted psychometric practices in designing and administering these tests.

Students receive a specific scale score on the tests which falls into one of four levels:

A more detailed breakdown of results as well as school by school results is available on the web at