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Schools to get more data from state tests, and earlier

Caryl Lorandini teaches one of her eighth-grade math

Caryl Lorandini teaches one of her eighth-grade math classes at Carle Place Middle School. She is an officer in a state math teachers association, and has talked about the state's upcoming math tests which are expected to be much more rigorous than those used in the past. (April 2, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Long Island teachers and school administrators next month will be able to review 50 percent of test questions administered in April to students in grades 3-8, compared with 25 percent of questions released last year, state education officials announced Wednesday.

Next week, those same local educators also will get earlier access to state reports detailing how many students answered each question correctly on the state's 2014 English and math tests. Such information for 2013 tests did not become available until last fall.

Officials in the state Department of Education, who announced the plans for expanded and earlier release of test data, said they are doing their best to deal with past complaints by local school staffers that they were left largely in the dark about the makeup of new, tougher state assessments based on Common Core academic standards.

Those tests were administered to students for the first time in April 2013, and resulted in plummeting scores and widespread protests by teachers and parents.

"We've always been committed to releasing just as many questions as we could, without jeopardizing the quality of the assessments themselves," said Ken Wagner, a former school administrator on the Island who now serves as the state's deputy education commissioner for curriculum and assessment.

The test questions are slated for release in early August, the department said.

Wednesday's state announcement caused some confusion locally, because it indicated that reports on numbers of students answering questions correctly would be released immediately. State officials later told Newsday that the release was being handled by regional BOCES centers, and that data for districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties will be available next Wednesday.

Reaction was mixed, with some of the Island's school leaders praising the effort and others responding more critically.

Michael Nagler, superintendent of Mineola schools, said earlier release of data "gives districts valuable information on how students, teachers and schools performed on the most recent state exams."

Bill Johnson, the Rockville Centre superintendent, noted that next week's release would not include access to cutoff scores, which show how many students actually passed state tests. Such information is to be made available in mid-August, the state said.

"What I need to do is focus on individual students, and I don't have the information to help me with that," Johnson said.


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