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City makes the grade

Leads the way as new testing baseline is set
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For the third straight year, New York City made more headway than the rest of the state on achieving proficiency in math and ELA for grades 3 through 8, according to test scores released by the state Education Department on Sept. 26.

New York City students narrowly outpaced students in the rest of the state in ELA, while narrowing the performance gap in math by gaining more ground than their counterparts statewide.

“New York City has continued for three years to outperform the rest of the state on growth measures,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at PS 204 in the Bronx. “That has not happened for decades. I know we have a lot of work to do, but we are taking on the challenge.”

He cautioned, however, that test scores are just one measure of a student’s, a teacher’s and a school’s performance.  “A test score is a single piece of evidence,” he said. “The days of using test scores as a scarlet letter are over.”

In ELA, 46.7 of city students met proficiency standards, compared with 45.2 percent statewide. City students were 1.5 percentage points ahead of students statewide, almost doubling their .8 percentage point advantage from 2017. 

In math, 42.7 percent of city students scored at the proficient level, compared with 44.5 percent statewide. City students were 1.8 percentage points behind students statewide, narrowing a gap that was 2.4 percentage points in 2017.

This year’s results continued the trend begun two years ago.

“The efforts of our teachers, our paraprofessionals, our administrators, our students and our parents are evident in how we compare across the state,” Carranza said.

Test results were released more than a month later than usual, a delay that state officials blamed on changes in the testing format. State officials also insisted this year’s scores couldn’t be compared with previous years, but instead constituted a new baseline for comparisons going forward.

The new state performance standards and the reduction of testing days from three to two for each exam preclude accurate comparisons to previous years, explained MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner.

Before the revisions to the state exams, city students’ English and math results had improved every year for four years, as did the English results in each of the city’s 32 community school districts.

The racial achievement gaps remained large on this year’s tests. In math, 72.2 percent of Asian students and 63.6 percent of white students tested proficient compared with 25.4 percent of black students and 30.3 percent of Hispanic students. In ELA, 67.2 percent of Asian students and 66.5 percent of white students met state standards, compared with 34 percent of black students and 36 percent of Hispanic students.

Opt-out rates were slightly lower than the previous year. Across the state, 18 percent of students refused to sit for the exams, compared with 19 percent in 2017 and 21 percent in 2016. In New York City, the overall opt-out rate was much lower, with 19,041 students, or 4.4 percent, refusing to take either exam, up slightly from 4.0 percent in 2017.

The state’s three-year moratorium on the use of state ELA and math exams to rate teachers in grades 3–8 ends in June 2019.

Related Topics: Testing