New York State Student Algebra Performance Drops Despite Lowered Standards

Published December 24, 2015

The percentage of students passing the New York State Regents algebra test fell from 72 percent in 2014 to 63 percent in 2015, even after the New York Education Department (NYDE) used a process called “equating” in hopes of ensuring a similar pass rate.

After the first Common Core State Standards (CCSS) exams given to New York 3rd through 8th graders in 2013 resulted in plummeting scores for both English and math, NYDE changed the test to make it easier for students to pass in 2014. In addition, the department manipulated the scores on the 2014 Regents exam given to 9th through 12th graders so the same percentage would pass the test as before, ostensibly because of its nature as a high-stakes test for seniors, who must pass six Regent exams to graduate.

Supporters of CCSS have continually characterized their standards as more rigorous than previously developed state standards. Proponents claimed the math standards would be more rigorous, as they were unlike earlier math standards, relying heavily on mathematical thought processes instead of memorization and traditional calculation procedures. Common Core proponents also said they expected test scores to drop as a result of the higher standards—a claim contradicted by the fact states can and do alter pass rates, often referred to as cut scores. In addition, the supposedly new mathematical processes were actually recycled from decades prior.

In an early 2013 Engage New York video, then-New York State Education Commissioner John King argued, “Lower proficiency scores … [do] not mean that schools are doing worse or that students have learned less, but it tells us where we are against the bar of college and career readiness.”

Now, with fewer students passing tests manipulated to increase the percentage who pass, the New York Regents have established a committee to determine whether the bar for passing has been set too high.

New York State has the highest number of testing opt-outs in the nation, a result of parents’ protests against the state’s use of Common Core and what parents perceive to be a climate of over-testing and continual manipulation of test scores and achievement standards.

“Yes, they told us the first year the scores wouldn’t be good, but they keep telling us every year the test scores will be better and they’re not,” said Yvonne Gasperino, who with her husband Glenn established Stop Common Core in New York State, “Each year [NYED] keeps changing the benchmarks to make Common Core look good, but they can’t. It’s impossible.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) is cofounder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education and a former public school science teacher.

Image by Josh Davis.

Internet Info:

Susan Edleman, “NY ‘fixed’ Common Core test—and scores surged,” The New York Post, August 17, 2014:

Gary Stern, “State to keep old passing rates on new Regents exams,” The Journal News, May 24, 2014: