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August 12, 2015
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Releases Spring 2015 Grades 3-8 Assessment Results

2015 Statewide Scores Show Slight Proficiency Gains for ELA and Math; Department to Strengthen Training for Teachers to Help Student Progress Continue

The State Education Department today released the results of the 2015 Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Tests. Overall, students statewide have made incremental progress in ELA and math since 2013, the first year assessments aligned to the more rigorous learning standards were administered in grades 3-8. In ELA, the percentage of all test takers in grades 3-8 who scored at the proficient level (Levels 3 and 4) remained consistent in 2015 at 31.3 compared to 30.6 in 2014 and 31.1 in 2013. In math, the percentage of all test takers in grades 3-8 who scored at the proficient level (Levels 3 and 4) increased by seven points in two years to 38.1 in 2015 from 36.2 in 2014 and 31.1 in 2013.

Progress for Black and Hispanic students held steady in 2015 ELA and math. While the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level edged up slightly in both subjects, Black and Hispanic students still face a significant achievement gap. English Language Learners (ELLs) also made small gains in 2015 in ELA and math but still lag behind their non-ELL peers. However, in New York City, Ever ELLs— students who received ELL services in years prior to the 2014-15 school year but not during the 2014-15 school year—had higher levels of ELA and math proficiency than NYC students who never received ELL services (Never ELLs).

The statewide proficiency rates on the 2015 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests closely match the proficiency rates of New York State students on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).[1] In May, the bipartisan group Achieve released Proficient vs. Prepared: Disparities between State Tests and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which singled out New York for being the nation’s top “truth teller.” More recently, the National Center for Education Statistics published Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Results From the 2013 NAEP Reading and Mathematics Assessments. The study found that New York measured its students against a bar as high as NAEP and in some cases, NY’s bar for proficiency is higher. A study by Education Next had similar findings: New York was the top-rated state for setting a proficiency bar that is roughly comparable and sometimes tougher to that set by NAEP.

“New York was an early adopter of higher learning standards and the assessments aligned to them, and our teachers have been working hard to help students meet these higher standards,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “Now we have to make sure those teachers get the professional development and resources they need to help students continue to make progress—especially our Black and Hispanic students and English Language Learners who still face a discouraging achievement gap. The Board of Regents is committed to providing these resources to our teachers so our students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful after high school.”

“The transition to new learning standards is not easy, and success isn’t instantaneous,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “Teachers across the state are working hard to help students reach the high bar we’ve set for them. In fact, we’ve increased seven points in math in two years. Thousands more of New York’s students are on track to graduate high school prepared to do more rigorous math. Now is the time for the state and districts to make certain that students move to the next level. It’s clear to me that we must do a better job of supporting our teachers and principals as they continue to shift their practice to the higher learning standards.”

The Department is committed to strengthening professional development opportunities for teachers and other educators to help them continue to transition to the college- and career-readiness standards. Elia has begun and will continue to talk with teachers about how best to improve teacher training. Additionally, the Department will examine the data from the 2015 testing program to determine targets for enhanced professional development.

Elia said the Department will focus on finding resources to replicate the Strengthening Teacher Leader Effectiveness (STLE) program. STLE has been a central part of the effort to prepare teachers and school leaders to teach college and career ready standards. Since it began in 2012, approximately 500,000 students, 42,000 teachers and nearly 1,000 principals in 221 districts have benefited from the program.

2015 Results

While ELA performance for the Big 5 City Districts—New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers—held relatively steady between 2013 and 2015, all Big 5 districts had an uptick in math performance for 2015 compared to 2014 and 2013. Low-need communities continued to outperform high-need communities in 2015 as they did in previous years. However, New York City students made encouraging gains in ELA, with proficiency approaching statewide levels. This year, 66.4 percent of NYC students scored at Level 2 and Above and 30.4 percent scored at Level 3 and Above, compared to the statewide percentages of 66.4 percent and 31.3 percent respectively.

In 2015, ELA performance for Black and Hispanic students remained consistent with prior year levels, while math performance improved slightly. In math, 21.3 percent of Black students scored at the proficient level this year, up from 19.8 percent in 2014 and 15.3 percent in 2013—a six point gain in three years. The percentage of Hispanic students achieving proficiency in math also jumped six points in three years to 24.5 percent in 2015, compared to 23.4 percent in 2014 and 18.5 percent in 2013. However, the achievement gap continues to persist statewide for Black and Hispanic students, as well as for ELLs. Current ELLs made small gains in ELA and math, yet they continue to lag behind their non-ELL peers.

In ELA and math, New York City Ever ELLs—students who received ELL services prior to but not during the 2014-15 school year—outperformed students who never received ELL services. In ELA, 34.2 percent of NYC Ever ELLs scored at Level 3 or 4 in 2015, compared to 33.8 percent of NYC Never ELLs. The difference was greater in math: the percentage of NYC Ever ELLs who met or exceeded the math proficiency standards (Levels 3 or 4) increased by 6.2 points in 2015 to 44.3 from 38.1 in 2014, whereas the percentage of NYC Never ELLs who met or exceeded the math proficiency standards was 37.3 in both 2015 and 2014.

Not Tested Count[2]

According to State data, approximately 80 percent of eligible test takers participated in the 2015 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests; about 20 percent of eligible test takers did not participate in these tests and did not have a recognized, valid reason for not participating.[3]

“This year, there was a significant increase in the number of students refusing the annual assessments,” Chancellor Tisch said. “We must do more to ensure that our parents and teachers understand the value and importance of these tests for our children’s education. Our tests have been nationally recognized for providing the most honest look at how prepared our students are for future success, and we believe annual assessments are essential to ensure all students make educational progress and graduate college and career ready. Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind. This cannot happen.”

“We must also do a better job of explaining to parents the benefits of higher standards and annual testing,” Commissioner Elia said. “Since I became Commissioner, I’ve made it a priority to establish a dialog with parents so they better understand why we test. Annual assessments provide important information about individual students for parents and classroom teachers and allow us to keep track of how all student groups are doing. This year’s results show our scores are not yet where they need to be, but we will work to ensure continued improvement.”

Department data show that students who did not take the 2015 Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests and did not have a recognized, valid reason for not doing so were more likely to be White, more likely to be from a low or average need district, and slightly more likely to have scored at Levels 1 or 2 in 2014. Students who did not take the test in 2015 and did not have a recognized, valid reason for doing so were less likely to be economically disadvantaged and less likely to be an ELL.

Instructional Reports and Student Score Reports

The assessment results tell educators and families how individual students are doing and where they need extra support. On July 1, the Department authorized the release of instructional reports based on raw score data for schools and districts to use for summer curriculum writing and professional development activities (

This month, the Department released 50 percent of the 2015 Grades 3-8 ELA and math test questions along with the answer keys, the standard(s) measured by the question, and the statewide percentage of students who answered the question correctly. To view the questions and other pertinent information go to:

Individual student score reports will be available to schools to share with parents in the coming weeks. The reports provide parents with information about their child’s performance level (1, 2, 3, or 4) and their child’s performance compared to other children in the same grade across the state. To see sample score reports and to find resources for understanding the reports, use this link:

New York State has completed five years of a 12-year phase-in of higher learning standards, which culminates in the requirement that students in the Class of 2022 and later pass Regents Exams aligned to more rigorous standards at the proficient/college- and career-ready level (Level 3 and Above). The Class of 2022 begins grade 6 this fall. For students graduating prior to 2022, students scoring at Level 2 and Above on the ELA and math tests are on track for current graduation requirements. Students scoring at Level 3 and Above are on track to graduate at the aspirational college- and career-ready level.

A summary of the test results as well as individual school and district results are available at:


[1] 2013 is the most recent year for which NAEP data is available.

[2] The State Education Department collects the number of students not tested for an invalid, unknown reason. This count includes students who refused the test as well as students who were absent during the test administration period. The count does not include students who were medically excused.

[3] Visit for a district-by-district breakdown of students who refused the tests; numbers provided to SED by districts and field offices.