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New York schools optimistic that next year's Common Core tests will improve

School officials throughout New York state weren't surprised when students taking this year's Common Core exams received low test scores. But most school board members are optimistic that next year's results will be better. A recent poll by the New York State School Board Association reports about two-thirds of school board members expect their district's students to improve next year. Only 12 percent say they don't expect better results.

Lori Eccleston, director of curriculum and instruction with the Utica City School District, says the next step is to identify what needs to be done in the classroom to raise test scores to a more acceptable level.

"We've utilized the resources of the state education department to train in the Common Core, and we've come back and we've worked together as a team," Eccleston said. "We're all rowing in one boat. No one is on their own little lifeboat here. So I think with that mindset, with the little resources we've had, we've done a whole lot."

But Eccleston says the money needed to produce better results is getting harder to come by. According to the poll, 73 percent of board members are concerned that they may not have the money to provide remedial instruction to their lower-achieving students.

It hasn't stopped Eccleston from trying, though. She says in the Utica City School District, teachers and students are trying to do more with less.

"Our ESL [English as a Second Language] population is extremely large in Utica," Eccleston explained. "We're the third largest refugee center in the United States, and our special [education] population, those two combined make up 30 percent of our kids. So, yes we were a little discouraged, but in a sense we were also encouraged."

In addition, more than 80 percent of students in the district are low-income, qualifying for free or reduced price lunches.

Eccleston says this year's Common Core assessments should serve mainly as a starting point for educators to raise the quality of education overall.