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Districts get early look at test scores as state responds to concerns

Alan Petersime

New York State is giving school districts an earlier-than-usual look at student testing data, in an effort to quell criticism that results arrive too late for schools to help students improve.

State education officials said they’re releasing “instructional reports” to districts more than a month earlier than in previous years. It’s the first time that information will be released before statewide test results, which officials said won’t come for at least another two weeks.

It’s unclear what impact the change will have in New York City. The city won’t see the same information as other districts because it uses a different data system. And city schools won’t be able to see the data until the first week of September, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.

The reports provide breakdowns of how each student answered individual questions on this year’s English and math tests. They also indicate which Common Core standard each question is aligned to, which officials said could be used to assess the specific strengths and weaknesses of incoming students.

Being able to see the data is an important tool to plan for the school year, said Beth Pollak, a middle school English teacher at P.S. 126.

“That was literally the first task our principal asked us to do” last year, Pollak said. “Go online and do an analysis of how our students did on the tests.”

The state’s third-through-eighth grade English and math exams are typically administered in April, but it has taken until the end of the summer in past years to release results that teachers and principals say is the most valuable. And school district officials have said they need more time during the summer to use the data when planning professional development, making decisions about curriculum, or revising their budgets.

King said he moved up the release by more than a month to address those concerns.

“We listened, and we acted,” said King. “These reports have been available in prior years, but by releasing the instructional reports early, we’re giving educators more time to use the assessment results in their planning for the next school year.”

The state has already taken a number of steps to alleviate anxieties around New York’s testing policies. Student test scores won’t be used to punish most teachers and principals on their evaluations for the next two years, and students can’t be held back a grade based primarily because they failed the test.

King also touted the state’s plan to release 50 percent of test questions to the public, twice as many as last year. Principals and teachers have criticized the state for a lack of transparency because they have been barred from discussing what was on the test.

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