From 2014: City scores on state tests jump slightly as schools adjust to Common Core

New York City’s recovery from a testing reality check got off to a promising start in 2014.

One year after scores plummeted following the state’s adoption of Common Core-aligned tests, city students collectively outpaced the rest of New York on both the math and English exams. In math, 34.2 percent of city students passed the exams, up 4.6 points from last year. In English, 28.4 percent of students passed, a one-point gain, according to city figures.

The city’s gains meant it shrank the gap between its English scores and the state’s to the slimmest margin since 2006. Statewide, 35.8 percent of students were considered proficient in math this year, and 31.4 percent of students considered proficient in English. But achievement gaps among city students remain wide.

“It’s a story of modest but real progress,” Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch said.

The numbers still show that the vast majority of New York’s students are not at their grade level in reading, writing, and math. But they also show that more struggling students were making progress out of the lowest category.

On a conference call with reporters, state education officials emphasized that they now believed the scores were an authentic indication of student academic proficiency. Test scores were widely seen as grossly inflated in 2009, when city proficiency rates reached 82 percent in math and 69 percent in English.

Commissioner John King attributed the city’s overall progress to its early implementation of the Common Core standards, citing the Common Core fellows program and strong professional development.

They started early on the Common Core,” King said. “I think that’s a factor.”

City students in all racial and ethnic groups did better on this year’s tests than last year, and state officials also said that indicated a narrowing achievement gap. But the numbers show that scores of white and Asian students improved more than those of their black and Hispanic peers — meaning that for the second straight year, the so-called achievement gap actually widened in most categories.

For instance, the math-proficiency gap between the city’s white and black students jumped by more than two points to 37.2 points this year. In English, it jumped 30.5 to 31.3 points. The gaps in both subjects also widened between white and Hispanic students, from 31.5 points to 32.7 points in math and 30.2 points to 31.7 points in English, as well as between Asian students and all other groups.

Success Academy, which puts an enormous emphasis on preparing its students to take the state tests, quickly released its overall performance, showing its students’ outperformed the rest of the city by a wide margin. In math, 94 percent of its students passed the math exam, while 64 percent passed the English exam.

State officials estimated that at least 105,000 students didn’t take at least one of this year’s exams. King said that about half of those were eighth graders who were allowed to skip the math exam because they were taking a high school-level Regents as a replacement. He said that between 55,000 and 60,000 additional students did not take this year’s exam, which a spokesperson said was up from as few as 10,000 students last year. The spike is likely attributed to a parent-led movement to opt their children out of taking the exams in protest of the state’s testing policies.

City student math proficiency rates | Create Infographics

City student ELA proficiency rates | Create Infographics


Here is the state’s full report:

father knows best

How a brush with death convinced one dad to get his diploma, with a boost from the Fatherhood Academy

PHOTO: Courtesy of Steven Robles
Steven Robles with his family

Steven Robles thought he might not live to see his daughter’s birth.

In May 2016, the 20-year-old was in the hospital after being shot during what he described as an argument in his neighborhood.

A year later, Robles just graduated from City University of New York’s Fatherhood Academy. He passed his high school equivalency exam and is happily celebrating his daughter Avare’s 8-month birthday.

“That conflict is what got me into the program, and what happened to me before she was born motivated me to stay in the program,” Robles said. “It motivated me to manage to pass my GED.”

Robles grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn and attended Franklin K. Lane High School. Though he liked his teachers, Robles said other students at the school were not “mature enough,” and the disorderly school environment made it hard for him to concentrate.

A quiet student, Robles said teachers would often overlook his presence in the classroom. Between that and friction with other classmates, Robles lost interest in school.

“My parents didn’t try to help me, either,” Robles said. “Nobody really tried to help me with that school, so I just stopped going.”

It was a whole different experience for him once he arrived at the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College, a program run by CUNY for unemployed and underemployed fathers ages 18 through 28. The Academy, now partnering with the New York City Housing Authority at its LaGuardia location, was launched in 2012 and also has programs at Hostos and Kingsborough Community Colleges.

“I have interviewed many of the men who come into the program and I often ask the question, ‘What brought you here?'” said Raheem Brooks, program manager of the Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College. “Mostly every young man says, ‘I’m here because I want to create a better life for my child than I had.’ So, I think the main theme of the program is that we help promote intergenerational change.”

At the LaGuardia branch, 30 students attend classes three times a week over the course of 16 weeks. Subjects include mathematics, social studies, and writing for students seeking to get their high school equivalency diplomas. Students also attend workshops run by counselors who guide them in professional development and parenting.

Robles found out about the program after seeing a flier for it in his social worker’s office at Graham Windham, a family support services organization. Curious to see what the Academy offered, he called to find out more and officially enrolled after passing a test to prove he could read above seventh-grade level.

“Before the Academy, I was not really into school at all,” Robles said. “But when I got there, it just changed my life. In this program, I didn’t know anybody there, there were no distractions. It made me more focused, and I just really wanted to get my GED and education.”

What helped Robles the most was getting to learn from the other fathers in the class, who were going through similar experiences as him.

“Little things I didn’t know, I learned from them because they were also fathers,” Robles said. “I just liked the way they were teaching us.”

In fact, he liked the Academy so much, he doesn’t plan to leave. He is applying to study criminal justice at LaGuardia Community College and to become a mentor for the Academy next year.

Currently, Robles lives with his grandparents, his daughter and the mother of his child. Getting a place for his family is next on his to-do list, he said.

“Avare always has a smile on her face and always puts a smile on my face,” Robles said. “She motivates me to get up and do what I have to do. Anything I could do for her, I will.”

Though school did not play a huge role in his life growing up, that is not what Robles wants for his daughter. He said after participating in the Academy, he wants to make sure Avare stays motivated and in school.

“I hear a lot from people about how they think they can’t do it,” Robles said. “I almost lost my life before my daughter was born and that motivated me. If I could do it, you could do it.”

Behind the brawl

Three things to know about the Tennessee school behind this week’s graduation brawl

PHOTO: Arlington Community Schools
Arlington High School is a 2,000-plus-student school in suburban Shelby County in southwest Tennessee.

Arlington High School is considered the crown jewel of a 3-year-old district in suburban Shelby County, even as its school community deals with the unwelcome attention of several viral videos showing a fight that broke out among adults attending its graduation ceremony.

The brawl, which reportedly began with a dispute over saved seats, detracted from Tuesday’s pomp and circumstance and the more than $30 million in scholarships earned by the school’s Class of 2017. No students were involved.

“It was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments,” Arlington Community Schools Superintendent Tammy Mason said in a statement.

Here are three things to know about the 13-year-old school in northwest Shelby County.

With more than 2,000 students, Arlington is one of the largest high schools in Shelby County and is part of a relatively new district.

It’s the pride of a suburban municipality that is one of six that seceded from Shelby County Schools in 2014 following the merger of the city and county districts the year before. (School district secessions are a national trend, usually of predominantly white communities leaving predominantly black urban school systems.) More than 70 percent of Arlington’s students are white, and 6 percent are considered economically disadvantaged — in stark contrast to the Memphis district where less than 8 percent are white, and almost 60 percent are considered economically disadvantaged.

The school’s graduation rate is high … and climbing.

Last year, after adding interventions for struggling students, the school’s graduation rate jumped a full point to more than 96 percent. Its students taking the ACT college entrance exam scored an average composite of 22.5 out of a possible 36, higher than the state average of 19.9. But only a fifth scored proficient or advanced in math and a third in English language arts during 2015-16, the last school year for which scores are available and a transition year for Tennessee under a new test.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visits with students at Arlington High School during a 2016 tour.

The school was in the news last August when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited its campus.

The commissioner spoke with students there to kick off her statewide listening tour that’s focused on ways to get students ready for college and career. McQueen highlighted the school’s extracurricular activities and students’  opportunities to intern for or shadow local professionals. She also complimented Arlington for having an engaged education community.