Opening the Black Box: Assessment Session at NTI

In the afternoon session on assessment, Dr. Kristen Huff began by presenting statistics to the participants about a study of New York State students who took the SAT/PSAT in 2010. It revealed that students’ scores fell at only about 25-35 percent, meeting the benchmarks. New York’s 2011 NAEP Reading scores revealed that Level 1 students increased between grades 4-8 as Level 4 and 3 students decreased. Another metric revealed that only 35 percent of New York State graduates are college- and career-ready. That results in more students taking remedial classes in college, leading to more students not finishing their degrees. All of this data resulted in the need for new standards and assessments.

The new Common Core 3-8 assessments are a NEW baseline. This year’s proficiency is different than last year’s. These scores reflect an honest picture of how our students, districts, teachers, and schools measure up to the new standards.

In order to define what it really means to be college- and career-ready, a panel was convened that included New York State educators, SUNY/CUNY faculty, and College Board members, among others. The standards represent a trajectory of learning, which this committee was charged with defining. The question was asked, how do you distinguish the student who is excelling from the one who is proficient? This resulted in Performance Level Descriptions (PLD), which outline the skills required to be considered proficient in the various academic areas.

The Performance Level Descriptions Panel tasks are:

  • Define Expectations – focus on what students should be able to do at each grade level according to demand of the standards.
  • Review Test and Benchmarks – panelists take, review, and discuss scoring of state assessments.
  • Provide First Judgment – panelists estimate percentage of students who are proficient based on the exam.
  • Training on Ordered Item Booklet (OIB) Method – items are ordered from easiest to hardest.
  • OIB Training 2 – check that all panelists feel comfortable with the training they have received to do this.
  • Make Round 1 Judgments about Cut Scores – panelists make judgments and discuss rationale for their judgments.

The second part of the meeting focused on using test scores to inform instruction.

There are testing and assessment resources available on EngageNY.org that contain rich information about assessment. Additionally, materials will be released on EngageNY.org to support score interpretation and use, including the PLDs developed by the panel. Talking points for principals and parents will also be released to assist in conversations about the new exams and scores. Released items will include annotations so that educators, students, families, and the public understand the kind of thinking that is demanded by the Common Core. The items are chosen according to what will be most useful in the classroom.

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