Understanding your Child’s State Test Scores

Title: Understanding your Child’s State Test Scores

By Nicole Lucien M.S.Ed, Special Education Teacher

What tests did your child take?

Each spring, students in grades 3-8 take part in the New York State Testing Program as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The English Language Arts and Mathematics examinations given are based on the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) adopted by New York State in July 2010. However, it wasn’t until the 2012-2013 school year that the assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics were used to measure a student’s progress towards mastering the Common Core Learning Standards. Students take the ELA and math assessments annually through grade 8. Science and Social Studies assessments are administered in grades 4 and 8 but are not Common Core aligned.

Quick Tip: The results from the ELA and Math Common Core Tests are not included in your child’s official transcript or permanent student record at this time. However, that can change in the future.

What skills are tested?

The ELA Common Core examination tests your child’s ability to comprehend key ideas and details presented in grade level texts. Their reading comprehension score is based on their responses to multiple choice questions that measure the common core learning standards. The mathematics common core examination tests your child’s ability to solve equations using the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), base ten, fractions, the number system, ratios and proportions, measurement and data, functions and geometry; which are determined by their grade level.

What was different this year?

More Teacher Input: Based on the feedback given to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), there were a few changes made to the examinations administered this year. The NYSED has significantly increased the number of educators who are involved in creating and reviewing the assessments. This will help ensure that assessments are rigorous but fair for all students.

Shorter Test Length: One consistent recommendation made to NYSED was to reduce the length of the test. Based on this feedback, the assessments administered this year had a reduced number of test questions on both the ELA and Math tests. Specifically, the ELA test had one less passage and fewer comprehension questions to allow students more time to read the passages more closely. For the math test, students also had fewer questions to answer.

No Time Limits: The biggest change implemented this year is a shift to untimed testing for all students. Feedback from educators indicated that students found it difficult to work at their own pace under the timed conditions. With the shift to untimed testing, students were given more of an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do. Guidelines indicate that as long as students were working productively, they were allowed as much time as they need to complete the test.

Quick Tip: Assessments are continually updated based on student performance and feedback. The shorter test length and unlimited time are not guaranteed for this upcoming school year. Speak to your child’s school before the upcoming state tests this spring to see if there are any changes to these guidelines.

Your Score Report Decoded

You can locate your child’s score on your NYC Schools Account: https://www.mystudent.nyc/. You need to have your child’s ID number (found on his or her report card) as well as an Account Creation Code (provided by your child’s school) to register.

For both the ELA and Math examinations, there are four major scores reported.

Scale Score: The scale score is determined by the number of points your child earns on the test. The higher the number of points your child earned, the higher his or her scale score. There may be no scale score listed if, (1) your child did not complete a sufficient number of questions on the test to generate a score, (2) if your child was medically excused, or (3) if there was an administrative error.

Quick Tip: You should NOT compare your child’s scale score this year to the scale score from previous exam years. The range of scale scores change by grade level and should not be compared as they may falsely indicate a better/worse performance than what actually occurred.

Performance Level 2015-2016: Students are assigned a performance level based on how they perform on the test this year. There are four possible performance levels:

NYS Level 1: Students performing at this level are well below proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are insufficient to meet grade expectations and Common Core Learning Standards.

NYS Level 2: Students performing at this level are somewhat proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are on track to meet current New York high school graduation requirements but are insufficient to meet Common Core Learning Standards.

NYS Level 3: Students performing at this level are proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are sufficient to meet Common Core Learning Standards.

NYS Level 4: Students performing at this level are currently excelling in meeting the grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are more than sufficient to meet grade level and Common Core Learning Standards.

Quick Tip: The New York City Department of Education has indicated that state test results will not have promotion consequences for students until at least the 2019-2020 school year. Results of the state test are only one measure of your child’s performance and should be considered in conjunction with student work on classroom assignments, projects, essays, and other assessments. However, private, parochial or catholic schools may have their own promotion criterion that incorporates Common Core test results. Speak to your child’s school in the beginning of the school year about the promotion criteria for their grade level and what assessments and metrics are used as part of promotion consideration. Then follow up with teachers throughout the school year to see how your child is progressing towards the promotion criteria. This can help you spot any difficulties they may be having so that additional help and remediation can be arranged with their teacher as early as possible.

Overall State Percentile Rank: The percentile rank compares your child’s scale score to the scores of other NY state students who took the same test this year. The rank is reported on a scale of 1-99. The higher your child’s percentage rank, the better your child did compared to other students. For example, if your child’s percentage rank is 50%, it means that your child did better than 50% of all students in their grade who took the test.

Quick Tip: Keep in mind that if your child was held back, their percentage rank is compared to students in their grade level, not their age. Keep this in mind when considering the percentile rank.

Performance Level 2014-2015: The second performance level listed indicates your child’s performance in the previous year’s examination. The 2014-2015 performance level can be compared to the 2015-2016 performance level (this year’s level) to determine if your child has improved. If your child’s performance level is lower this year than last year, it can indicate that there may be some interventions that are needed to ensure that your child continues to progress. These interventions can include providing test preparation, tutoring, and/or test accommodations offered through a 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Quick Tip: Students taking the 3rd grade test will not have a previous year performance level as this is the first year of administration. Use this year’s performance level as a baseline to compare to in future years.

Next Steps

Understanding your child’s results is just the first part. While the results may or may not have been what you expected, your understanding of the results can help you support your child during the school year and help them prepare for their next assessment.

If your child’s performance was a Level 1 or Level 2:

  • Speak to your child’s teacher to get an understanding of what standards they struggle with the most. Ask for suggestions on how you can support learning at home.
  • Advocate for your child to receive additional support as needed. Students whose performance level is either Level 1 or Level 2 are eligible for academic intervention services (AIS) from their schools.
  • Speak to your child about their testing experience. Ask about any fears, anxieties or difficulties they faced during testing. Your child’s feedback may help you determine what type of support they need during this time.
  • Find ways to help your child practice skills outside of school. For example, household activities like cooking, baking and shopping can help your child practice skills that will help them during testing. These activities can help students develop skills such as following multi-step directions and calculating measurements that are assessed during testing.
  • Encourage independent reading at home. All children can benefit from additional independent reading time, not just struggling students. However, some students are more hesitant to pick up a book and read without encouragement. Find a book series or genre that your child particularly enjoys and don’t worry about how “educational” it is. Even magazines, newspapers and comic books can be good material to encourage reading.
  • Consider having your child evaluated for special education services for additional support that they may need. Many students struggle silently with learning disabilities that are unsupported and are not allowing them to demonstrate all that they know and can do. Students who qualify for special education services are entitled to receive support throughout the school year and testing accommodations during assessments. Testing accommodations that may be considered include breaks during testing, administration in a distraction free location and questions read aloud. These supports can make all the difference for some students. In addition, even if they receive these supports, there are no future implications on their post-secondary school and career options.

If your child’s performance was a Level 3 or Level 4:

  • Continue to encourage your child’s progress and do not look at the results as a reason to lower expectations for their performance. Some children (and parents) develop a false confidence that can cause them to slack on school and homework. Learning is a continual process that should be guided by your child’s curiosity and your encouragement.
  • Challenge your child’s critical thinking skills. Regardless of what grade level tests they take, all assessments test your child’s ability to think critically and analyze information presented. Help your child develop critical thinking skills by asking open ended questions, encouraging them to make decisions independently, and having them make connections between what they learn and what they experience in life.
  • Help your child develop their group work skills, their social skills and reinforce academic skills by having them act as a peer tutor. School is a very important aspect to a child’s social life and development. Giving students the opportunity to interact with their peers in an academic setting is preferred by many. Many advanced students thrive in this leadership opportunity. In addition, some struggling students benefit from learning directly from their peers.
  • Speak to your child’s school about possible early promotion. Can they be switched to a higher level math class based on a strong performance? Should they be considered to skip a grade? While you don’t want to push them if they are not ready, you also want to ensure that they are appropriately challenged for their ability levels. Nothing is worse than a student who loses motivation due to being “bored” and unchallenged in the classroom. Inquire about enrichment programs that may be a good fit for your child.


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