Scores for the new, more rigorous New York State Common Core tests were released Wednesday, and as expected, the results were not good.
However, New York City actually faired pretty well when compared to schools in other cities in the state and the gap between scores in the city and statewide averages closed considerably.
Mayor Bloomberg and the city Department of Education argue the results, which were expected to come in much lower, set a new baseline.
“Our administration has consistently raised the bar for our students – and given time and support, they have consistently risen to the occasion,” Bloomberg said. “We are confident that they will rise to this challenge – and it’s encouraging that our students are out-performing their peers in the other cities around the state. In addition, they are closing the gap with students in the rest of the state, something few people thought possible a decade ago. The new Common Core curriculum, as it is phased in, will empower students to achieve at higher levels in the years ahead and graduate high school ready for college and careers.”
As a whole, statewide scores were not very impressive. Just 31 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 in the state were at or above proficient in math — a drop of more than 20 percent — while that number was 31.1 percent for English. In city schools, those numbers were 29.6 percent and 26.4 percent, respectively.
“We have known for over a year that a higher bar would initially mean lower scores,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Wednesday. “But this change is important, and students, teachers, and schools will not be penalized by the transition. With an unprecedented amount of support being provided, I have full confidence that schools will effectively take on this challenge and students will reach this higher bar, as they have many times before.”
Proficiency levels in math ranged from 35.2 for city fourth graders to 25 percent for seventh graders, while in English, the range was from 28.7 percent for fifth graders to 23.3 percent for sixth graders.
Math proficiency was at or above statewide standards among all races; mostly notably among white students, 50.1 percent in the city versus 38.1 percent statewide. Math scores were better among city students for English language learners, former ELL students and students with disabilities.
City students also outperformed state standards in English proficiency on all levels except Hispanic students, who performed 1.1 points worse in the city than statewide; 16.6 percent proficiency versus 17.7 percent.
In math, charter schools outperformed traditional schools in the city by five points, but traditional schools scored slightly higher in the English exams, outperforming charter schools by 1.3 points.
Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, called the scores “bracing” and acknowledged more has to be done to improve scores.
“Despite better relative performance in math and English when compared to host districts, the hard reality is most charter schools are challenged by low proficiency rates,” he said in a statement. “Fortunately, charters are known for being flexible and accountable for performance, because we all have a lot of work to do.”
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, said he was disappointed by the scores, and added that the blame should not be placed on teachers and administrators.
“It’s disheartening to hear this news; the DOE has spent millions on testing and school report cards only to find out now that they didn’t really live up to the public standard touted by the mayor.” he said. “I believe our principals and teachers did and do a great job. They followed the rules and did what they were told: it’s not their fault.”
The DOE said the test scores will not be a factor in teacher evaluation scores for next year, nor will the scores affect student promotions or school progress reports.
Fedkowskyj said he isn’t opposed to testing, but feels the state exams as is are “out of control.”
“The weight of a single test has changed the way our teachers teach and that is of paramount concern to parents, our system should allow teachers to use their background and training without concerns of a weighted test score,” he explained. “The emphasis on actual learning is now playing second fiddle and teaching to the test has become a seductive way to approach this goal. Parents would agree that the city and state need to find other means of educational assessments and give our educators an opportunity to actually teach without the abuse of a weighted test score.”
The DOE is planning on doubling its investment in teacher development for Common Core to over $100 million and schools will receive an additional $10 million to support targeted, small-group tutoring after school. More than one million new books and resources will be given to hundreds of schools and more than 15,000 teachers are receiving professional development this summer.