clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What it really means to score "proficient" on New York tests

A reader recently drew my attention to a deceptively unassuming chart that the city often uses to defend its heavy reliance on state tests.

The chart shows how neatly eighth graders’ scores on the tests predict their future academic success. The higher the score they get, the better their shot at graduating high school with a Regents diploma — the only kind that will count come 2014.

But the reader pointed out that the chart also includes a more frightening statistic: Students who score at a level considered proficient by every measure, a 3 out of possible 4, only have a 55% shot of getting a Regents diploma.

That 3 represents the low range of possible 3’s, which are handed out after the state converts raw results known as scale scores into a 1, 2, 3, or 4. A higher scale score equivalent to a 3.5 gives a student an 81% shot of getting a Regents diploma. Students who get a 4 out of 4, meanwhile, graduate 93% of the time..

Nevertheless, a 3 is considered enough to pass. And to move from one grade to the next, a student needs only a 2.

Concerns about the poor rigor of state tests began as cries in the dark by critics of the Bloomberg administration, elevated to the level of academic-but-still-not-official concern, and have now come close to gospel. New tests are being developed as part of the federal government’s push for “Common Core” standards, but they won’t be administered for several years.

UPDATE: The new people in charge of making state tests, State Education Commissioner David Steiner and his deputy John King, have taken the new gospel on the road. Steiner recently took the get-tough message against “grade inflation” to Rochester and Buffalo.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Sign up for the newsletter Chalkbeat New York

Sign up for our newsletter.