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Chancellor Rosa: New York’s state test scores are no cause for a ‘victory lap’

Chancellor Rosa and Vice Chancellor Brown attend a Board of Regents meeting.
Chancellor Rosa and Vice Chancellor Brown attend a Board of Regents meeting.
Monica Disare

New York State’s Board of Regents chancellor downplayed this year’s state test scores on Wednesday, insisting that gains in English and math do not warrant a “victory lap.”

“I think we’ve made it very clear that this year’s exam cannot be compared [to last year’s], and yet we have out there people looking at different pieces of this test and reacting to different pieces,” Chancellor Betty Rosa said. “The whole idea that we put the asterisk there, the footnote, is that we really didn’t want people taking a victory lap.”

Her comments, which she made during an education forum at Fordham University, came roughly half an hour after New York City’s chancellor praised the results on the same stage, and noted that all districts in the city showed improvement.

“Every single district in the city, without fail, has moved forward, has made progress,” said schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “That’s unique because you always have some places more successful than others.”

Both the city and the state displayed big gains in English test scores, but Rosa’s comments underscore the fact that the two entities interpret those gains differently. (The city slightly outpaced the state’s increase, improving ELA scores by 7.6 percent compared to a 6.6 percent increase statewide.)

When the test results were released, State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia cautioned the scores were not an apples-to-apples comparison to last year’s results, since students took untimed and shortened tests this year. But in a press conference a few days later, Fariña called the results cause for a “three-day celebration” and Mayor Bill de Blasio said they are “pure, hard evidence” their reforms are working.

In an interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday, Fariña stuck to her original stance that the test scores are reliable since the “rigorousness and difficulty” remained the same year to year. She also said test scores would “absolutely” be used to measure progress at schools in the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, though she said they will be one of several measures.

Rosa noted that across the state, part of the reason to hold off celebrating is the achievement gap between students of color and white students remains intact. She also said she is working with Elia to sort out exactly what conclusions could be gleaned from this year’s tests.

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