2012-08-17 / Top Stories

Local Test Scores Continue To Drop

Few Schools Maintain High Standardized Scores

By Howard Schwach

The scores from this year’s high stakes English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics tests are in, and most of the schools on the peninsula continue to fall far below the standard necessary to be considered at grade level.

And, once again, the great majority of the peninsula’s schools fell far below the levels they achieved in 2008 and 2009 when New York State lowered the cut scores, the number of questions a student had to get correct in order to reach a desired level of competency, in order to allow more students to achieve those higher levels.

For years, ever since the federal government began offering large sums of money for states doing well on standardized tests, those cut scores were lowered so that more students could achieve the necessary Level 3 in order to pass the test, state officials now admit.

In fact, a good number of the schools continue to fall from that 2008 high.

Take, for example, Intermediate School 53 in Far Rockaway. In 2008, 36 percent of the school’s students were reading at Level 3 and Level 4, the two highest levels.

In 2009, that percentage rose to nearly 60 percent, a startling growth pattern that many now believe was due to the reconfigured cut scores for the tests.

That year, IS 53 got an A on its school report card and was rated by the Department of Education as one of the top schools in the city.

In 2010, however, the State Department of Education, embarrassed by reports that the test scores did not show the reality of what was happening in the classrooms, raised the cut scores to where they had been in 2001 and 2002.

That year, even though the great majority of the students in the school were the same students that were there the previous year, only 16.4 percent of the students in IS 53 were found to be reading on Level 3 and Level 4, city reports show.

Last year, the school did even worse, with only 10.5 percent of the students reading on adequate levels.

This year, the school’s reading scores rose slightly to 15.3 percent, still far below 2009 levels.

Several schools fell both in reading and math. Over those years, IS 53’s mathematics score dropped from 60.26 percent in 2009 to 15.8 percent this year.

PS 215, a school which is slated to be closed in September and reopened as two new schools, 63.4 percent of the students were on grade level in math in 2008. That percentage has now dropped to 24.8 percent. In reading, the school dropped from 53.7 percent in 2008 to 21.8 percent last year.

Some schools maintained high levels – PS 47 in Broad Channel, PS 114 in Belle Harbor and the Scholars’ Academy remained stable or dropped a point or two.

One problematic school is the Goldie Maple Academy, a new school that was opened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg when Middle School 198 was phased out.

In 2007, 83.7 percent of the students were on grade level in reading. This year, that number dropped to 48 percent. Similarly, in mathematics, the numbers dropped from 91.6 to 54.7 over the four-year period.

School report cards are due sometime after the school year begins next month.

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