New York City public school students improved their performance on state math and English tests for grades 3 through 8 for the sixth year in a row, according to 2019 test scores released by the state Education Department on Aug. 22.
More than 45 percent of city students met proficiency standards in math, a 2.9 percent boost from 2018. In English, the number edged up to 47.4 from 46.7 percent the prior year.
For the fourth straight year, New York City made more headway than the rest of the state on achieving proficiency in math and ELA. The city performed slightly better than the rest of the state on English tests and is lagging just behind the rest of the state on math.
Despite persistent performance gaps, proficiency in both subjects increased for all ethnic groups. For the first time since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, every community school district also saw its math scores improve.
"This year's results show that with proper supports, New York City public schools will only continue to show steady progress," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "Our teachers know that work carries on and that our students are our priority."
New York State no longer requires these scores to be used when evaluating teachers, thanks to UFT-backed legislation that became law earlier in the year. The results do, however, influence which schools are considered by the state to be struggling.
This is the first time in recent years that the tests were similar enough to allow comparison to the previous year. Changes to earlier iterations of the test, including their duration and the number of questions, had made year-to-year comparisons unreliable.
At a press conference at PS 69 in the Bronx to announce the new results, de Blasio pointed to his signature prekindergarten program as a factor in students' improving grades.
"It's reaching deep into our communities; it's changing children's lives," said the mayor.
About 28,000 3rd-graders — or 43 percent of all 3rd-graders taking the test in 2019 — attended pre-K in 2014–15 as part of the first major expansion of the mayor's Pre-K for All program, according to the Department of Education. Those children scored 2.8 percentage points higher in English and 1.1 percentage points higher in math than the 3rd-graders who did not attend a public pre-K program in the city, according to school officials.
The racial achievement gaps remained large. Nearly 67 percent of the city's white students and 74 percent of the city's Asian-American students passed the 2019 math exam, compared with 28 percent of the city's African-American students and 33.2 percent of the city's Hispanic students. There was a similar gap on the English test.
English language learners and students with disabilities continued to struggle on the state tests. Just 9.3 percent of children learning English as a new language passed their reading exams and just 18.9 percent passed their math exams. About 16 percent of students with disabilities passed the English test and 17.5 percent passed the math test.