New York State To Toughen Standardized Exams

| July 20, 2010

New York State education officials are on the verge of toughening state standardized exams as they have deemed the exams too easy for students. The primary factors motivating the change is a sharp increase in test scores at all grade levels all over the state while there were no such results on national standardized exams. The increase in test scores was also a key plug in Mayor Bloomberg’s re-election campaign, which led some observers to note the test may be too easy.

The state had researchers at Harvard analyze the exam scores and compare them with those on national exams and the Regents, a mandatory exam for all high school students in New York State. Some of the results showed that students who passed the eighth grade math test had a one in three chance of scoring high enough on the Regents in high school to be considered ready for college math. According to the education commissioner David M. Steiner, the exams test a small part of the curriculum, especially in subjects such as math, and that questions are often repeated so students who take practice exams will often see the same questions on the exam.

The proposed changes have been met with criticism by districts and schools in large urban cities in the state, as their students are likely to be the ones most severely affected by the changes.  Superintendent of Syracuse schools Daniel G. Lowengard notes “we’ve lost sight of the purpose of the test-it’s supposed to show you’ve mastered a certain skill at a certain time.”

Most of the argument in favor of adopting a more stringent exam was echoed by Duncan in his previous blog about his experience taking the Regents.