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Queens Chronicle

Students make gains on state tests

Queens pupils outperform their peers citywide

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Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:39 pm, Thu Aug 18, 2011.

Queens students, on average, scored nominally better than they did last year on state English and math tests, though they did outperform their peers citywide, according to data released this week.

The state Department of Education issued the results for the English and math standardized tests for students in third- through eighth-grade statewide, which reported that an average of 51.1 percent of Queens students were proficient in English, compared to 49.9 percent of borough pupils last year.

Citywide, 43.9 percent of students were proficient in English, a slight increase over last year’s 42.4 percent.

Borough students achieved better scores on the math test, with an average of 65.5 percent of pupils reaching proficiency. About 62.5 percent did the same last year.

In the city, the average percentage of students reaching proficiency on the math tests grew from 54 percent last year to 57.3 percent this year.

In the borough, average English test scores tended to drop the older students became, with 55.1 percent of third-graders reaching proficiency compared to 42.1 percent of those in eighth grade.

These gains, however slight, were touted by Mayor Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

“All of our students, teachers and principals should be very proud of their progress and the fact that we continue to raise achievement levels and outpace the rest of the state,” Bloomberg said in a prepared statement. “But as much progress as we have made, we know we have much more work to do.”

State Education Commissioner John King was less optimistic in his assessment of the results.

“Student outcomes have been stubbornly flat over time,” he said of statewide test scores.

King noted state education officials hope to change that by creating more rigorous tests to better assess where a student stands in English and math.

The state DOE made a number of changes to the tests taken this year, including making each student write at least one full essay on the English exams.

Average English scores in Queens dropped since last year in the seventh and eighth grades. About 43.8 percent of seventh-graders were proficient this year, compared to 45.4 percent last year.

The eighth grade proficiency numbers dropped from 46.8 percent last year to 42.1 percent this year.

Average math results jumped from 61.7 percent proficiency in third grade to a high of 70.4 percent in fifth grade. The numbers dropped after the fifth grade, with 61.6 percent of eighth-graders reaching proficiency this year.

Because of the slight gains, and dips in some grades’ averages, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the city education system has a “long way to go.”

“As a former classroom teacher, I know that real progress in student learning comes gradually, not in leaps and bounds,” he said. “The [DOE] needs to come up soon with an instructional strategy that can keep this progress going, despite the problems we are facing next year, like a dramatic rise in class size and the loss of hundreds of valuable programs.”

New York City students outperformed their peers in the state’s other big cities.

For example, in Buffalo, 26.9 percent of students met the English proficiency standard, which is down from 27.7 percent last year.

Syracuse pupils received the lowest scores out of all the major cities, with 22.5 percent of students meeting English proficiency standards, compared0 to 25.5 percent last year.

The city’s achievement gap persists in the data, though minority students did make gains over last year.

The percentage of black students proficient in math increased from 40.4 percent in 2010 to 44.2 percent in 2011, and the percentage of proficient Hispanic students went from 46.2 percent to 49.2 percent.

In English, the percentage of proficient black students increased from 32.6 percent to 34.8 percent, while the percentage of proficient Hispanic students went from 33.7 percent to 34.7 percent.

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