News and Notes
August 2013
New York State Education Department
News and Notes

commissionerMessage from Commissioner King 


Dear Colleagues:


The recent release of the grades 3-8 ELA and math test results presents both an opportunity and a challenge for all of us. We know that by setting this new baseline using the Common Core Standards, we have a better understanding of where our students are on the path to college and career readiness. But with this opportunity comes challenges, particularly around communicating about the results with parents and families as well as the broader public.


In conjunction with the score release, we have emphasized that the new proficiency rates must not be used to criticize our schools, principals, and teachers. We have explained that the results do not mean schools taught less than last year or that students learned less than last year. We have tried to focus the public discourse on the commitment to college and career readiness for all students that has led 45 states and the District of Columbia, K-12 educators, higher education, and the business community to embrace the Common Core.


I am grateful for the hard work of New York educators over the past three years to make the shifts in instruction required by the Common Core. I appreciate the commitment, professionalism, and determination to prepare all students for college and career success displayed by educators across the State as these first Common Core assessment results have been released.


We must continue striving together to ensure that our communities and parents understand that these results do not reflect a decline in performance but rather a higher set of expectations consistent with college and career readiness in the 21st century. We must also continue the hard work of the past three years to make the shifts in instruction required by the Common Core, such as asking students to read more challenging fiction and non-fiction, to write more frequently using evidence drawn from text, and to apply their math skills to solve real world problems.


By collaboratively focusing on the Common Core instructional shifts, analyzing student work to develop strategies to support the success of all students with respect to the Common Core, and celebrating excellence in teaching, we will be able to accelerate our collective efforts to prepare all of our students to succeed in college and careers.


To help you interpret and communicate about the 3-8 tests and results, we provide a set of resources with the score release outlined below. We share these materials with the goal of continuing our collective focus on instruction. Teaching is at the Core of this work. Our goal is to support your efforts to prepare your students and communities for the demands of the Core. Below are descriptions of the resources, as well as suggestions for how to use them in your practice. All of these resources can be found at


Thank you for all the work you are doing to prepare for a successful school year ahead.

Dr. John B. King, Jr.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnKingNYSED





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Annotated Test Questions


For each of the tested grades (3-8) in both English Language Arts and Mathematics, we have released a representative sample of operational test questions and annotated them to aid in the understanding of the rigors required by the new Common Core tests. The annotated questions include both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions. These questions demonstrate the way the Common Core should drive instruction and how tests have changed to better assess student performance in accordance with the demands of college and careers.


These annotated items are intended to support the shifts in your instruction and assessment. The annotations explain the common misconceptions or misunderstandings students may have had when answering the questions, the reasons wrong answers are wrong, and the reasons students might have mistakenly chosen them. You can use these to help inform unit and lesson planning. In some cases, the annotations offer insight into particular instructional elements (conceptual thinking, visual models) that align to the Common Core. It should not be assumed, however, that a particular standard will be measured with an identical item in future assessments.


Performance Level Descriptions


For each tested grade (3-8) in both English Language Arts and Mathematics, we have released a set of Performance Level Descriptions (PLDs) that describe the knowledge and skills students demonstrate at each performance level.


PLDs can serve a number of purposes in classroom instruction. They can be the foundation for rich discussion around what students need to do to perform at higher levels and to explain the progression of learning within a subject and grade level. You can also use them to differentiate instruction to maximize individual student outcomes, create classroom assessments, and track student growth along the proficiency continuum.


Suggested Data Analyses


To support your analyses of the test data, we have released this resource which describes suggested approaches to analyzing state test data. If you, your school, or your district conduct analysis outside of that which is provided on individual score reports, that analysis must be very thoughtful and careful. The Suggested Data Analysis document provides guidance for using these analyses to inform instruction, given the type of information available from and provided to you from your districts, RICs, and BOCES.


Background Slides


These slides should serve as a resource for you and could be used in presentations you make to district leadership and community stakeholders. These could include presentations to school boards, community groups and during parent events. The slides should serve as a resource and can be supplemented with your school and/or district data.


Understanding the Parent Report


This is a resource developed to assist families to understand the individual student score report which they will receive from district leadership on their child's test performance. It provides descriptions explaining each part of the Parent Report. It can also support your ability to accurately explain individual student performance to families and to discuss next steps moving forward. You might also share this resource directly with families when the Parent Report is sent out.


Communications Resources


To accompany the release of scores, Commissioner King shared letters with educators and families discussing the test results and what they mean for students. These letters have been collected and placed together for your review and use.


A Notable Quote


The SUNY Chancellor, CUNY Interim Chancellor, and the President of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities wrote last week, "The first test scores aligned with these rigorous standards represent the state's strong commitment to aiming higher and should be viewed as baseline data from which we can move forward. They are a signal of our collective commitment to take on the challenge of preparing all students to compete effectively in the global marketplace of ideas and careers."