slow and steady

New state math scores reflect "measured gains," officials say

NYC scale scores
A slide from the state's test score PowerPoint presentation

The results of the 2009 state math test are in, and state officials are welcoming them as a sign of overall, if modest, improvement.

More students across the state in grades 3-8 met the proficiency standards than in the previous four years, with 86.4 percent of them scoring proficient, compared to 80.7 percent last year and just 65 percent in 2006, when the state instituted a new math curriculum. In New York City, the percentage of students that met the state’s proficiency standard jumped to 81.8 percent this year from 74.3 percent in 2008.

Unlike with this year’s reading test scores, the math test scores showed similar increases in the percentage of students testing as proficient or better and the scale scores that students posted. Statewide, scale scores, which are considered the most statistically useful way to evaluate test score gains, rose by six points in 2009. New York City slightly edged out the rest of the state, with an 8-point scale score gain.

New York City elementary school students have nearly caught up with the rest of the state in terms of the proportion of students scoring proficient or better, Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement today. (The full press release is at the end of this post.)

New York State’s black and Hispanic students bear most of the responsibility for the scale score increases. Across the state, the scale scores of black and Hispanic students rose by eight points while those of white students rose by five and those of Asian students increased by four points.

During a press conference today, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills repeatedly cautioned against reading the scores as “huge gains,” citing the high proportion of students who did not pass the state exams, particularly those in eighth grade who are set to enter high school unprepared. “We like to see the progress, but it’s not as fast as we want,” he said.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said the rising test scores are evidence that New York State should join the standards movement, which would create a national measure to evaluate student performance. (The Washington Post reported today that 46 states and Washington, D.C., have signed on to pursue national standards.) “What today’s scores tell me is not that we should be celebrating…but that New York needs to raise its standards,” Tisch said.

To download the New York State Education Department’s PowerPoint presentation, go here.

And here’s the city’s complete press release:


Gap Reduced by Nearly One-Third since Last Year, is 4 Points or Less in Elementary School Grades

Racial Achievement Gap in Eighth Grade Narrows Faster Than Ever Before

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that New York City elementary and middle school students made significant gains at every grade level on the State’s annual math test, substantially narrowing the achievement gap with students in the rest of New York State. A total of 81.8 percent of New York City students in grades 3 to 8 are meeting or exceeding grade-level math standards, compared to 88.9 percent of students in the rest of the State. The gap is narrowest in elementary school-2.3 percentage points in third grade, 3.6 points in fourth grade and 4.0 points in fifth grade. Across grades 3 to 8, just 7.1 percentage points separate City students from their peers statewide. That gap narrowed nearly by one-third since last year and has been cut almost in half in the last three years, even as students across the state made progress. This is the result of the substantial progress New York City students made in math at every grade this year, continuing the consistent improvement since Mayor Bloomberg won control of the school system in 2002. The Mayor and Chancellor made the announcement at P.S./ M.S. 15 in the Bronx where they were joined by United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest A. Logan, and Principal Eddice Griffin.

“The idea of New York City students performing nearly on par with the rest of New York State would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but thanks to the hard work of our teachers, principals, and parents, and the students, we’re well on our way to making it a reality,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our schools have made a remarkable turnaround since 2002, and New York City is now proof that you shouldn’t have to choose between living in a big city and sending your children to excellent public schools. It’s happening because we are putting children first and holding our schools accountable for results.”

Today, 84.9 percent of students in fourth grade and 71.3 percent of students in eighth grade-the two grades tested by the State since the start of the administration-are meeting or exceeding standards, up from 52.0 percent and 29.8 percent, respectively, in 2002. One in four students is exceeding standards by scoring at the highest level on the test, while just 3.4 percent of students scored at the lowest level on the test. The longstanding racial and ethnic achievement gap continued to narrow. In the eighth grade, black and Hispanic students narrowed the gap with their white peers by more than they have in any other year since 2002. The gap between black and white eighth grade students narrowed by more than it has in the previous six years combined. In addition, English language learners and special education students made larger gains than English-proficient and general education students did.

“I want to congratulate principals, teachers, and parents, who all played a critical role in helping our students continue the remarkable progress they have made since 2002. All of our students are making progress, and we’re continuing to narrow the shameful racial and ethnic achievement gap, especially in eighth grade, where it has been the most persistent,” said Chancellor Klein. “I’d also like to acknowledge the Regents and the State Education Department-especially Commissioner Rick Mills. Today’s results show statewide gains is a testament to their relentless focus on raising academic standards across the State over the last several years.”

“These math scores are further evidence of the incredible gains our schools have made in the past few years,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “They’re also a reminder that we can’t afford to reduce our commitment to providing a quality education for every child. These students, along with their parents and teachers, have worked incredibly hard, and we are extremely proud of their achievement.”

“The across-the-board improvements in math testing announced today are something for all of us to celebrate, particularly kids and their teachers, but also all those who play a supporting role in our school communities,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “These scores are a testament to our highly qualified teachers and the hard work going on every day in our classrooms. This is evidence that collaboration is essential. Today’s announcement also speaks to money well spent. The progress we’re seeing illustrates how important it is for the City to protect core educational services by restoring some of the proposed education cuts in the city budget. We are moving forward because in addition to qualified teachers, schools have used a consistent math curriculum, and the resources to offer students things like extra tutoring and academic intervention services.”

“The math scores announced today suggest that our school leaders and teachers are making steady progress in bringing our 3rd to 8th graders up to state standards,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest A. Logan. “New York City educators deserve thanks and congratulations for this progress. These scores raise hopes that, with great effort and determination, American educators will eventually help the U.S. regain the global competitive advantage it once enjoyed in science, technology, engineering and math.”

“I am pleased that New York City’s 3-8 math scores have continued to improve. Students entering the third grade in New York City Schools are now scoring comparably, if not above the statewide average,” said Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith. “This type of continued, sustained growth is a direct result of the renewed commitment that the City and the State have made to improving the public schools in this city, and across New York State.”

“I am deeply proud of what the students, teachers, principals and administrations of the public schools in my district have accomplished,” said State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. “It is not coincidental that we have experienced dramatic improvements in test score results and the high school graduation rate, not only in the 33rd Senate district but across the five boroughs, since Mayor Bloomberg has held himself accountable for the performance of our public schools. These results clearly demonstrate why Mayor Bloomberg must continue to have oversight of our public education system.”

“We are always pleased when our children do well; it confirms what we have always known of them. We remain extremely proud of all of our students,” Assembly Member Nelson L. Castro.

Today, more New York City students are meeting or exceeding State standards in math at all grade levels. The percentage of students in grades 3 to 8 meeting or exceeding math standards rose 7.5 percentage points since last year, from 74.3 percent to 81.8 percent. The percentage has risen 24.8 points since 2006, when the State began testing grades 3 to 8. More than one-quarter of students in grades 3 to 8-25.9 percent-are exceeding standards, up from 14.9 percent in 2006. Just 3.4 percent of students scored at the lowest level on the test, down from 15.7 percent in 2006. The average score on the test for students in grades 3 to 8 rose eight points this year, from 672 to 680, meaning that the typical student in New York City is scoring 30 points above the cutoff for meeting standards.

Gains in math by New York City students have been larger than those of students in the State as a whole-both in the past year and since 2002. Across grades 3-8, New York City students have closed the gap with students in the rest of the State from 13.6 points in 2006 to 9.8 points last year to 7.1 points this year. Since 2002, the City’s fourth grade students have closed the gap with students in the rest of the State by 20.8 points, from 24.4 points in 2002 to 3.6 points in 2009. In eighth grade, City students have closed the gap by 13.6 points since 2002, from 27.2 points in 2002 to 13.6 points this year. The smallest gap with the State this year is in third grade, where it is just 2.3 points. A total of 91.4 percent of New York City third graders are meeting or exceeding math standards, the first time that percentage has reached 90 in any grade.

New York City students of all races made progress this year, but black and Hispanic students made the greatest gains, narrowing the racial and ethnic achievement gap. In eighth grade, black and Hispanic students narrowed the gap with their white peers by more than they have in any other year since 2002. The gap between black and white eighth graders fell 5.9 points since last year, more than the 4.9 points it fell in the previous six years combined-a total decline of 10.8 points since 2002. Black students scored 35.0 points below white students in 2002, 30.1 points below white students in 2008, and 24.2 points below white students this year. The gap between Hispanic and white eighth graders fell 6.6 points since last year and has fallen 15.3 points since 2002. Hispanic students scored 34.3 points below white students in 2002, 25.6 points below white students in 2008, and 19.0 points below white students this year.

In the fourth grade, the gap separating black and Hispanic students from their white peers has been more than halved since 2002, even as all students have made significant gains. The gap between black and white fourth grade students narrowed by 3.8 points since last year and has narrowed by 19.5 points since 2002. Black students scored 34.7 points below white students in 2002, 20.2 points below white students in 2008, and 14.5 points below white students this year. The gap between Hispanic and white fourth grade students narrowed by 3.5 points since last year, and has narrowed by 18.7 points since 2002. Hispanic students scored 30.5 points below white students in 2002, 15.3 points below white students in 2008, and 11.8 points below white students this year.

English language learners’ gains exceeded the gains of their English-proficient peers this year, and the percentage of English language learners meeting or exceeding math standards has nearly doubled since 2006. A total of 68.0 percent of English language learners in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded math standards this year, compared to 58.6 percent last year and 35.8 percent in 2006. A total of 84.1 percent of English-proficient students met or exceeded standards this year, compared to 76.8 percent in 2008 and 60.4 percent in 2006.

Students with disabilities made double-digit gains this year, exceeding the gains of their general education peers. A total of 55.0 percent of special education students met or exceeded standards this year, compared to 43.4 percent last year and 24.9 percent in 2006. A total of 87.6 percent of general education students met or exceeded standards this year, compared to 80.6 percent in 2008 and 62.6 percent in 2006.

The gains among English language learners and students with disabilities were spurred by the Department of Education’s school accountability tools, which focus attention on these special populations.

Copies of the 2009 State math test results can be accessed at <> .

Superintendent search

Nashville school official is one of four finalists to become Newark’s next superintendent

Sito Narcisse

A top Nashville schools official is one of four finalists vying to become Newark’s next superintendent.

Newark’s school board has not announced the finalists, but Sito Narcisse, currently chief of schools of the 88,000-student Metro Nashville Public School system, is in the running, Chalkbeat has learned. Narcisse, who has also been a high-ranking official in two large Maryland school districts and a principal in Boston and Pittsburgh, confirmed the news on Monday. The son of Haitian immigrants who spoke French-Creole at home as a child growing up on Long Island, he later helped open two high schools for recent immigrants who were still learning English.

The other finalists, Chalkbeat has previously reported, are former Baltimore city schools chief Andres Alonso, Newark Interim Superintendent Robert Gregory, and Newark Assistant Superintendent Roger Leon. (Alonso previously declined to comment, and Leon did not respond to an email.)

Newark’s last state-appointed superintendent, Christopher Cerf, stepped down on Feb. 1 when the school board officially regained control of the district after 22 years of management by the state. As the district transitions back to local supervision, it must adhere to a state plan that stipulated that there be a national search for the next superintendent and three finalists for the full board to vote on. However, the state last month granted a request by the board to name four finalists instead of three.

The finalists will introduce themselves to the public at a forum on Friday, though the audience will not be allowed to ask questions. The school board will then interview the candidates in private on Saturday, before they are expected to make their selection at the public board meeting on May 22.

Narcisse was also a semifinalist for the superintendent position in Duval County, Florida until Monday, when the school board there voted not to advance him to the second round of interviews, according to the district’s website. (Unlike Newark, that school system posted all the candidates’ applications online and will livestream the school board’s interviews with the finalists.)

Alonso, the other candidate from outside Newark, was recently in the running to become Los Angeles’ next superintendent before withdrawing his name last month. Both he and Narcisse may face an uphill battle in Newark, where several board members and many residents have said they would prefer a local educator to run the school system now that it is back in local hands after decades of state oversight.

In an interview Monday, Narcisse told Chalkbeat that if he was hired in Newark he would work hard to get to know the district and “become a part of that community.” He added that many of the schools he oversaw in Tennessee and Maryland served low-income students who dealt with trauma and poverty similar to the kinds faced by many Newark students.

“I know I’m not from Newark,” he said. “But the children of Newark have the same set of issues, the same set of challenges.”

Narcisse began his career as a high-school French teacher in a suburban district outside Nashville, before opening a public school in Pittsburgh and then taking over a struggling high school in Boston. He later held district leadership roles in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he helped design the new schools for immigrants still learning English.

In 2016, he became chief of schools for the Metro Nashville system, the second-highest position in the district, where he is responsible for overseeing 169 schools. In that role, he helped establish a high school where students can earn associate’s degrees, brought new science and technology programs into the middle schools, and participated in a public-private partnership to boost students’ reading skills, he said. His salary is $185,000 per year, according to his application for the Duval County position.

He said that he has absorbed several lessons over the years on how to improve struggling schools: Find a strong principal, provide lots of staff training, and invest in extra support services for students. He also cited another lesson that could be especially apt in Newark, where many residents rejected the sweeping policy changes enacted by Cami Anderson, a prior state-appointed superintendent.

“The other part is to not to do reform to them — but to be a part of the work with them,” he said, referring to community members. “That’s how change and sustainability happens.”

family matters

Lashing out at de Blasio administration, Mulgrew says educators lack paid parental leave because of ‘gender bias’

PHOTO: Philissa Cramer
UFT President Michael Mulgrew

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew tore into the city Monday for not providing paid parental leave to city teachers, calling the situation a case of “gender bias.”

Mulgrew, whose union is 77 percent women, was among the leaders testifying about the need for a paid parental leave policy Monday at a joint hearing of the City Council’s committees on education and civil service and labor.

In some of his harshest criticism of the de Blasio administration, Mulgrew criticized city leaders for saying leave should be negotiated in contract talks and come with concessions.

“I believe this is clearly gender bias on behalf of the City of New York and I do believe now it’s being used completely as a bargaining chip against our union, the union with the high female [membership],” Mulgrew said. “So I’m quite aggravated and pissed off at the city on this whole thing.”

Under the Department of Education’s current policy, teachers who want paid leave after having a baby must use accrued sick days. The policy applies only to birth mothers, not educators who become parents through surrogacy or adoption.

The UFT’s fight, spurred in part by a petition that went viral last fall, comes after the city extended six weeks of fully paid time off to its non-union workforce in 2016, covering about 20,000 managerial employees.

The city has pointed out that those workers made concessions, including giving up raises and vacation days, in exchange for their leave. The administration has also estimated that extending this program to all UFT members could cost $1 billion over four years.

Bob Linn, the city’s labor commissioner, testified Monday that paid leave was an issue that would be addressed during negotiations with the UFT, whose contract expires in November. “We will be reaching agreements on this issue,” he said.

Here’s what three UFT members who spoke Monday told the council:

Carolyn Dugan, a special education teacher in Manhattan at PS/IS 180

“I went into labor at my school because I was trying to save all my sick days for my maternity leave.
I wanted to maximize the little time I had with my newborn, so instead of taking a few days to rest before the baby was born, I worked up to very last moment and I ended up going into labor at

Eric Rubin-Perez, a school counselor at the John F. Kennedy Jr. School in Queens

“I had managed to save over 65 days in my bank that I had always planned on using for child care leave. I attended a UFT workshop on paternity leave in the fall of 2013. To my shock, I learned that as a father I was only allowed to use three personal days. It didn’t matter how many days I had saved in my bank, I was not able to use any of them. All those times I made the treacherous commute in the snow to my school in Elmhurst, Queens, from my home in Suffolk County, or when I came back to work after oral surgery didn’t matter, because I could not use any of my days. My husband who worked on Long Island got six weeks of paid paternity leave so it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get anything.”

PHOTO: Jessica Jean-Marie
Teacher Jessica Jean-Marie returned to work last week.

Jessica Jean-Marie, teacher in New York City public schools

“Last week, I returned from maternity leave after 11 weeks from having my second child. I tried working until I went into labor so that I could have a full 12 weeks — six weeks using sick days and six weeks off payroll on unpaid child care leave — at home with my son. I couldn’t do it. The physical pain and the mental stress became too much. I worked up until the week of my due date, hoping my son would come sooner than later so I can maximize my leave. He arrived three days past due.”