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Rochester students fare poorly on new state tests 

This morning, the State Education Department released test results for grades 3-8, and the scores for the Rochester school district are shockingly low. Only 5.4 percent of city students are proficient in English and only 5 percent are proficient in math.

click to enlarge New York State Education Commissioner John King.
  • New York State Education Commissioner John King.

Rochester scores are again the lowest of the state’s Big Five school district’s, with New York City scoring the highest. In New York City, 26.4 percent of students are proficient in English and 29.6 percent are proficient in math.

State Education Commissioner John King emphasized in a written statement that the results do not reflect a decrease in performance for schools or students. The results should be seen as a better, more precise tool for evaluating students, as educators and parents prepare the state’s children for a more competitive college and work environment in the 21st century, he said. 

“I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals,” King said. “But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration.”

He said that the scores are not a critique of the past, but a starting point.

He also said that the results will not negatively impact districts, schools, principal,s or teacher accountability. Superintendents should recognize that this is the first year of new assessments, he said, and the standards to meet the new proficiency levels are much higher.

The tests will likely become fodder in Rochester’s mayoral race where education and the city school district have again become subjects for sometimes heated discussions. Both Mayor Tom Richards and City Council President Lovely Warren, who square off in a primary election next month, have presented competing education plans as central parts of their campaigns.

Warren has made a point of saying that the system is broken and that it has resisted reform. She is a strong supporter of charter schools.

Richards says that thousands of Rochester’s children will continue to attend city schools into the foreseeable future, and that his goal is to work with Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas and the community to improve student outcomes.

The SED’s statement was accompanied by a long list of quotes from educators and supporters of the new Common Core curriculum. The curriculum, which has been in development since 2009, is being implemented this year in most New York schools and in districts across the country. But the curriculum and the testing has been controversial and met by resistance by some educators and parents.

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