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State test score data set to be released early next week

Students had to wait until August to hear how they did on last year’s state tests after the release date got postponed by nearly two weeks. The wait won’t be nearly as long this year.

A spokesman for the New York State Education Department confirmed this morning that the test score announcement is scheduled to be made on Tuesday, July 17, barring there are no technical difficulties like the ones that delayed last year’s release.

The release is also earlier in the summer because students took the grades 3 through 8 tests two weeks earlier than normal (and immediately after students returned from spring break). The advanced timing was planned in order to put new teacher evaluation requirements in place. Twenty percent of a teacher’s rating on the evaluations will be based on scores from the state tests.

The annual announcement is a highly-anticipated event that education officials typically use to mark their progress. Prior to 2010, it had become easy to predict that the event would be an occasion for education officials to point to gains.

And while the scores are still announced with a generally positive spin, that narrative had grown harder to push in recent years. State officials acknowledged that the proficiency standards during the years of gains were too low and raised them accordingly. That change took place beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, resulting in significant drops across the state.

Last year, both the state and city saw small increases in proficiency, with the city’s gains outpacing other districts.

Whether the scores improve or decline, the results will not escape criticism from skeptics who oppose high-stakes standardized testing. Education researcher and writer Diane Ravitch questioned the validity of both the test score data and the exams themselves. She referred in particular to this year’s tests, where 24 questions were found to have errors and one infamous eight grade reading passage about a Pineapple left some test-takers flummoxed.

“Given all these uncertainties, no high stakes decisions for students, teachers or schools should be based on these test scores,” Ravitch said.

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