NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – North Salem’s students will be put to the test this week when youngsters in grades three through eight begin taking New York State’s English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics assessment tests on Tuesday. But this year’s versions of the tests will be different, and more challenging, than years past, state officials warn.
For the first time New York State assessments will be based on the revamped Common Core Learning Standards, a series of benchmarks that has been adopted by 45 of the 50 states.
The goal is to develop more critical thinking and problem-solving skills, say state educators, and to evaluate students and teachers more rigorously. “Students will be asked to read more difficult tests, to use evidence to support their arguments, and to perform multiple-step math problems,” said John King, New York State Commissioner of Education.
The North Salem School District’s Mike Hibbard, assistant superintendent for instruction and human resources, was a little more specific. “We know that problem solving will be a stronger focus. Students will be expected to use basic math skills and processes such as making charts, graphs, diagrams, and other visuals to tackle and solve problems.
“Another example of changes that we know will be in the new tests is a focus on more difficult non-fiction reading comprehension and a more extensive use of informational argumentative writing,” Hibbard added.
State officials say the standards were created through intensive research, mapping backwards from college and career success. In a memo to education officials around the state, New York’s Deputy Commissioner of P-12 Education, Ken Slentz, said there will now be a new definition of “readiness” at each grade level.
The hope, he said, is that educators and parents will have an indicator of how students are performing and progressing toward college- and career-readiness. “If students are to graduate from high school fully prepared, they must meet the benchmarks set by the Common Core -- at every grade and in every classroom,” Slentz wrote.
King warned students, parents and teachers not to be discouraged if they see scores drop. “The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance,” he added.
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