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Long IslandEducation

Passage rates fall on new Common Core geometry exam

Passage rates on new Common Core geometry exams dropped sharply in many school districts on Long Island and across the state when compared with results on older versions of the test, as New York State phases in tougher high school assessments based on the national standards.

The new geometry exams, administered for the first time in June, reflect what state officials have described as a more rigorous curriculum with greater emphasis on "real-world" problem-solving.

In Nassau County, the percentage of students with passing marks on the Common Core version of the geometry exam fell to 70.8 percent in June, according to data released Thursday by the state Education Department. That's compared with 82.3 percent of students who passed a 2014 geometry test based on state -- rather than national -- standards.

In Suffolk County, passing rates declined to 66 percent in June, compared with 81.5 percent the previous year. Statewide numbers dropped to 63 percent from 73 percent.

The shift to new geometry assessments marks the latest in a series of changes as the state rewrites Regents exams that historically have served as measures of high school achievement. The curricula and exams are based on the national Common Core academic standards adopted by the state in 2010.

New exams in algebra and English language arts were introduced in June 2014. Revised Algebra II tests will be rolled out next June.

"You're looking for students to be more productive," said Susan Schnebel, superintendent of Islip schools and president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. "This requires a change in mindset. It's not a quick process."

In Islip, as in many other districts, students were given a choice in June of taking either the old geometry exam, the revised version, or both. Those taking the Common Core test passed at a rate of 62 percent.

By way of comparison, Schnebel cited results from a 2013 exam based on state standards. The passing rate then was 81 percent. The schools chief added that her district was stepping up training for teachers and providing Saturday classes for students in an effort to boost results.

Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman, in a statement late Thursday, cautioned against direct comparisons of results from old and new geometry exams, noting that the tests were based on different standards and taken by different groups of students.

The release of data covered topics ranging from results on fourth-grade and eighth-grade science tests, to scores on Regents exams, to percentages of high school graduates planning to attend two-year and four-year colleges. The statistics can be viewed at the department's public access data site at

One of the more encouraging markers showed continuing improvement in the number of Long Island teens earning Regents diplomas with an "advanced" designation -- from 49.9 percent of graduates in 2014 to 54.5 percent last spring. Such diplomas indicate completion of courses such as geometry and trigonometry, regarded as solid preparation for college.

Some local school administrators contended that the new geometry exams do not adequately reflect students' knowledge of the subject, and that the new geometry curriculum will not prepare them well for college-level studies.

"I'm greatly concerned that the Common Core courses of study are not getting our kids adequately prepared for calculus," said William Johnson, superintendent of Rockville Centre schools and a former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Burman said an exam work group established in September by the state Board of Regents is reviewing issues such as scoring of tests and the inferences that could be drawn from scores. This will be discussed with educators in the months ahead as the state proceeds with "the continuous improvement plans we have for our exams," he said.

The agency's release of data came the day before Long Island members of a state task force will hold a public hearing on the controversial Common Core standards, testing and curriculum -- one of five such meetings across the state being held Friday.

The forum for the Island is at Stony Brook University's Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology, 1500 Stony Brook Rd., from 4 to 6 p.m., with people given a chance to speak for three minutes on a first-come, first-served basis. Check-in begins at 3:30 p.m., and on-site parking is available.

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