Hudson Valley students registered slightly improved scores on state academic achievement tests given this spring, outpacing the rest of the state, according a Newsday analysis of results released Tuesday.
The spring tests drew criticism from parents and educators this year, raising concerns about increased testing time and unclear exam questions -- including some ultimately thrown out by the state. The tests were designed to be tougher.
Still, the percentage of students meeting state standards in the Hudson Valley increased by 2 percent on both math and English exams. Students improved incrementally across the state.
In the six-county Hudson Valley region, 62 percent of students met or exceeded standards on the English Language Arts tests, compared with 55 percent statewide; while 69 percent scored at or above the math standard, compared with 65 percent statewide.
"These results are a small, positive sign of growth, but not enough of our students are climbing as steadily as they should be," State Education Commissioner John King Jr. said about the statewide results in a news statement.
Yonkers Public Schools students outpaced three of the state's five big city school districts, while trailing students in New York City. In Yonkers, 41 percent of students met or exceeded the English test standard and 47 percent met or exceeded math standards.
Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio echoed the state commissioner's sentiments.
"Obviously there's still much room for improvement, but we're pleased we continue to move in the right direction," Pierorazio said. "With the increased rigor, our staff and students have risen up and met the challenge."
King said school districts have more work to do to close the achievement gap between white students, on the one hand, and African-American and Hispanic students, on the other.
Pierorazio said Yonkers will analyze the scores by student group in order to identify where students are struggling and improve instruction.
South Orangetown School District Superintendent Ken Mitchell said his district will be analyzing the data as well.
Mitchell suggested that the many changes in the state tests over the years -- from the scores needed for proficiency, to the exams themselves -- make it difficult to draw conclusions from a preliminary look at proficiency rates.
"There's so many questions because the state has changed assessments and changed content," Mitchell said. "There hasn't been a consistent target for a number of years."
School leaders are also grappling with how this data will be used in teacher and principal evaluations, said Jim Langlois, superintendent for the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.
"Obviously there's concern about student performance, but they've also got this huge new focus," Langlois said. "This is now an entirely new ballgame ... to figure out how the tests relate to teacher performance."