Guide to Secondary School Assessments


For information contact

The New York State Education Department
Information, Reporting & Technology Services
Room 863 EBA
Albany, N.Y. 12234
(518) 474-7965

Web site: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs
E-mail: rptcard@mail.nysed.gov


The New York State School Report Card is an important part of the Board of Regents effort to raise learning standards for all students. It is designed to provide information to the public on student performance and other measures of school and district performance. Knowledge gained from the school report card on a school’s strengths and weaknesses can be used to plan programs and curriculum and to allocate resources.

While the report card can assist in performing these important functions, it is important to note that small differences among student groups or schools are not meaningful. As such, overinterpretation of these differences can result in unsound programmatic decisions. When reviewing school performance, remember too that student academic readiness, motivation, and family and community support vary among schools and affect student performance. Though the report card can indicate how well students performed against measured standards, it does not provide information about other forms of student performance valued by the community. Therefore, decisions about school programs are better made by combining information about performance with on-site evaluations of the delivered program.

This year’s school report card is composed of complementary parts:

The Overview reports school performance on accountability measures, enrollments, and school demographic data. It includes performance of fourth- and eighth-graders and selected high school students on measures of English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The performance of fourth-graders in science and eighth-graders in social studies is also reported. School and district statistics are provided in separate reports. The school report compares the school's results with those of schools that are similar, and the companion school district report compares school district results with statewide results.

The Comprehensive Information Report (CIR) presents three years of results on all State assessments not included in the Overview, including Regents examinations, second language proficiency examinations, Regents competency tests, and occupational education proficiency examinations. The CIR provides information on high-school completers; attendance, suspension, and dropout rates; student enrollments and demographics; and professional staff.

The Analyses by Student Subgroup of School Performance in English Language Arts and Mathematics includes performance data of students by gender, racial/ethnic group, English proficiency status, migrant status, disability status, and income level for examinations in English language arts and mathematics. A more detailed description of this information can be found on the first page of the Analyses.

Questions & Answers

Q. What are the learning standards?

A. The Board of Regents has established learning standards in seven curriculum areas. They describe broad expectations of what students should know, understand, and be able to do as they progress through grades K-12 in New York State schools.

Q. What is the relationship between the school report card and the learning standards?

A. Both are part of the statewide strategy for raising the level of student achievement. The strategy includes:


Q. What is the System of Accountability for Student Success (SASS)?

A. Over time, all schools in the State are expected to increase the percentages of their students who demonstrate proficiency in English language arts and mathematics. SASS is a means to hold schools accountable for meeting State standards. (The SASS Web site is www.p12.nysed.gov/nyc/accountability.html.)

Q. What are the State standards?

A. The State standards at the secondary level are established in regulation. Based on each relevant standard, a school falls into one of three categories: meeting the standard, below the standard, and farthest from the standard. The standard is that 90 percent of the annual high school cohort must meet their individual graduation assessment requirements in English language arts and in mathematics. In addition, the annual dropout rate must not exceed 5 percent.

Q. What happens to schools who score below the State standard?

A. The State assigns adequate yearly progress targets to each school below a State standard. Districts must develop a local assistance plan for these schools. The plan must include activities to improve performance of all students and to enable the school to meet or exceed State standards.

Q. What happens when there are too few students in a school to make a judgment about the school’s performance?

A. No judgment about performance is made on a school that has fewer than 20 students tested on a standard in a given year. The school’s position relative to the standards will be assessed by combining student performance over two or three years, as necessary, to make the judgment on a minimum of 20 students. Data on small groups of students cannot provide reliable information regarding the extent to which the school is providing a program that enables students in that group to meet the State standards.

Q. How will school report cards help parents ensure that their schools are meeting or exceeding the State standards?

A. The school report card shows whether or not schools are meeting the State standards. The report card also shows the adequate yearly progress targets that have been assigned to schools below the standards and whether schools are meeting these targets. Parents can use the school report cards to see how well a school is performing and the trends in student performance relative to the State standards.

Q. How is the performance of English Language Learners (ELL), also referred to as limited English proficient (LEP) students, assessed and reported?

A. All general-education students, including ELLs, who first entered grade 9 in 1996–97 or later, will be required to score 55 or higher on the Regents examination in comprehensive English. The Regents examinations in sequential mathematics, course I, and mathematics A are now available in five alternative-language editions. Alternative-language editions of all required Regents examinations except English and of all Regents competency tests are available.

Q. What are the requirements for a high school diploma?

A. Students who entered grade 9 before September 2001 must complete 18 units of study. These units must include four in English, four in social studies, two in science, two in mathematics, one in art and/or music, and one-half unit in health education, as well as prescribed course sequences. General-education students who first entered grade 9 in the fall of 1997 were required to pass the Regents examination in comprehensive English and a Regents examination in mathematics. Additional Regents examination requirements have been implemented with each new ninth grade class. To earn a Regents diploma, a student generally must have completed three units in a language other than English and passed a minimum of eight Regents examinations.

To ensure that all students have the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the standards, the Board of Regents established safety net provisions, including a phase-in of the requirement that students pass five Regents examinations; the option for districts to award local diplomas to students scoring 55-64 on required Regents examinations; and the allowing of students with disabilities who fail a Regents examination to demonstrate competency using the Regents competency test in that subject area.

Q. What other revisions have been made to the graduation requirements?

A. Beginning with students who entered ninth grade in 2001, all general-education students will be required to pass at least five Regents examinations and earn at least 22 units of credit, including four units in English, four in social studies, three in mathematics, three in science, one in the arts, one in a language other than English, one-half in health, and two in physical education. Higher requirements have been established for an advanced designation on the Regents diploma.

Q. How is the performance of students with disabilities reported?

A. Results for students with disabilities are displayed for all State assessments and for diplomas earned. Students with disabilities may use modified testing procedures specified in their individualized education program, so caution should be used when comparing results among schools.

Q. How can parents help their children meet higher standards?

A. Parents can help children by talking with them, asking teachers what is expected at school, and monitoring children's learning and homework.

Q. What are similar schools?

A. To help parents and community members determine how their school compares with schools that serve similar students and have similar resources, the State has established Similar School groups. The following factors are considered in grouping schools: a) the grade levels served by the school, b) rates of student poverty and English language learners, and c) the income and property wealth of district residents.

The measure of student poverty is the proportion of children in the school who participate in the free-lunch program. Free-lunch participation declines in higher grades. Nonetheless, since groups are composed of schools serving similar grades, we believe this is a valid approach.

Q. How can I get more information on the school report card and the new higher standards?

A. Call the State Education Department at (518) 474-7965 or e-mail us at the following address: rptcard@mail.nysed.gov. Copies of the New York State Report Card for all public schools and districts and other information about data reporting can be found on our Web site: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs. Information on the standards and new State assessments can be found on the Web site for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai.


The State Testing Program

Secondary-Level Examinations

The report card shows three years of results for all secondary-level examinations. Regents examinations are achievement tests based on courses of study used in grades 9-12. They provide schools with a basis for evaluating the quality of instruction and learning and give students information with which to make educational and vocational decisions. The Regents competency tests were established to allow students not participating in Regents courses to demonstrate competency for graduation. Beginning with the class who entered grade 9 in 2001, all general-education students will be required to demonstrate proficiency by passing Regents examinations. Second language proficiency examinations measure the performance of eighth- and ninth-graders in learning a second language. Occupational education proficiency examinations measure skills acquired in courses preparing students for careers.

Other Measures