The Higher the Standard, the Lower the Score

As you’ve probably heard by now, results are in for New York’s state test, which was administered this past spring and based on Common Core standards.  For weeks, the press has been preparing the public for lower scores, as the new test raised the bar and emphasized problem-solving skills.  The results of the test show just how much work there is to do:  across the state, less than one in three students in grades 3-8 were proficient in ELA and/or Math.  This in comparison to last year’s proficiency rates under the old test of 55% and 65% in reading and math, respectively.  The new test also highlights the achievement gap: of English Language Learners, that number was below 10% for both ELA and Math; and only 16% of African American and 17% of Hispanic 3rd-8th grade students tested proficient or above ELA.  The night before the scores were posted, former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein wrote in the New York Post, “Raising standards will mean we now have a more true measure of how well our students are learning,” and called the drop in numbers “a necessary hardship on the path to academic excellence.”

Klein is right.  The OECD’s PISA results in 2009 showed the United States to be far behind other developed countries (including Shanghai, Finland, Singapore, and Australia) in reading, and below the OECD average in math.  While the new Common Core standards test results may come across as shocking, it’s a healthy reminder of the progress we still need to make.

It may sound glum, but we knew that performance was worse than we thought it was. Setting higher standards and raising the bar for performance–as well as shifting the skillset focus that we’re testing–was something we had to do eventually.  So let’s use New York as an opportunity to raise expectations and change our actions all around, and hope that in a few years, these numbers won’t be so low.