Regents Chancellor: State test scores are no cause for a ‘victory lap’

Ali Garber

New York’s Board of Regents chancellor downplayed this year’s state test scores on Wednesday, insisting that gains in English and math do not warrant a “victory lap.”

“I think we’ve made it very clear that this year’s exam cannot be compared (with last year’s), and yet we have out there people looking at different pieces of this test and reacting to different pieces,” state Chancellor Betty Rosa said. “The whole idea that we put the asterisk there, the footnote, is that we really didn’t want people taking a victory lap.”

Her comments, which she made during City & State’s On Education forum at Fordham University, came roughly half an hour after New York City’s schools chancellor praised the results on the same stage, and noted that all districts in the city showed improvement.

“Every single district in the city, without fail, has moved forward, has made progress,” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “That’s unique because you always have some places more successful than others.”

Both the city and the state displayed big gains in English test scores, but Rosa’s comments underscore the fact that the two entities interpret those gains differently. (The city slightly outpaced the state’s increase, improving English language arts scores by 7.6 percent compared with a 6.6 percent increase statewide.)

When the test results were released, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia cautioned not to make an “apples-to-apples comparison” with last year’s results, since students took untimed and shortened tests this year. But in a press conference a few days later, Fariña called the results cause for a “three-day celebration,” and Mayor Bill de Blasio said they were “pure, hard evidence” their reforms are working.

In an interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday, Fariña stuck to her original stance that the test scores are reliable since the “rigorousness and difficulty” remained the same year to year. She also said test scores would “absolutely” be used to measure progress at schools in the city’s Renewal turnaround program, though she said they will be among several measures.

Rosa noted that across the state, part of the reason to hold off celebrating is that the achievement gap between students of color and white students remains intact. She also said she is working with Elia to sort out exactly what conclusions could be gleaned from this year’s tests.

This article was first published on Chalkbeat New York on August 17.