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 <> .

To and Through

Newark’s post-grad paradox: More students are entering college, but few earn degrees

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants 25 percent of residents to have college degrees by 2025, up from 19 percent today.

When it comes to college, Newark faces a good news-bad news paradox.

More students than ever are graduating high school and enrolling in college, according to a new report. Yet fewer than one in four Newark students earns a college degree within six years of graduating high school — leaving many with limited job prospects in a city where an estimated one-third of jobs require a four-year college degree.

Now, city officials are promising to build on the report. They want to ramp up the rigor of high-school classes and create more early-college programs to increase the odds of students entering college and leaving with a degree.  

“How do we teach our children to perform — to graduate?” Mayor Ras Baraka asked at a press conference Wednesday to mark the official release of the report of Newark students’ college outcomes. “We got them in the door,” he said of students who attend college. “Now how do we make them stay?”

The city’s plans, to which Superintendent Roger León is lending his support, reflect a growing recognition that simply getting students into college is not sufficient — and can even backfire if they drop out before graduation, leaving them with college debt but no degree.

Until recently, the charge given to high schools in Newark and across the country was to foster “college-going cultures.” And these efforts showed promising results: On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students who graduated high school between 2011 and 2016 immediately enrolled in college, up from 39 percent who did so between 2004 and 2010, according to the report by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, or NCLC, and Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

But entering college didn’t guarantee its completion. Of those students who started college straight after high school, only 39 percent earned a degree within six years, the report found.

As a result, educators and policymakers have begun to think harder about how to help students “to and through” college — to ensure they actually earn degrees. Toward that end, Baraka and the NCLC — which includes roughly 40 colleges, schools, nonprofits, and corporations — has set a goal of 25 percent of Newark residents earning college degrees or comparable credentials by 2025.

Today, just 19 percent of Newark adults have associate degrees or higher — compared to 45 percent of adults across New Jersey and 40 percent nationally.

Superintendent León, who began overseeing the city’s schools on July 1, said his main strategy for supporting these efforts will be to expose students to challenging work early on.

“If we don’t do something dramatically in classrooms to improve instruction and make it rigorous,” León said after Wednesday’s event, then students are “getting into college but they’re not completing it.”

Source: “Post-Secondary Outcomes of Newark High School Graduates (2011-2016)” report. Note: The four-year rate is an average of the classes of 2011 to 2013. The six-year rate is from the class of 2011. Graphic: Sam Park/Chalkbeat

For starters, León said he wants high schools to offer more college-level classes. In the 2016-17 school year, just 21 percent of Newark students were enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — compared to 42 percent of students statewide.

He also vowed to raise the quality of instruction in the district’s traditional high schools. Only 14 percent of their graduates earn college degrees within six years, compared to 42 percent of graduates from the city’s selective magnet schools, the report found.

To do that, León said he will create specialized academies within the traditional schools modeled on the magnets, which have specialized themes such as science, technology, or the arts. The academies, which will partner with colleges, will most likely feature admissions criteria similar to those of magnet schools, which select students based on their academic and attendance records, León added.

And, for the first time, all ninth-grade students this academic year will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, León said Wednesday. An additional 1,100 eighth-graders who passed at least one of their seventh-grade PARCC exams will also take the PSAT when it’s administered on Oct. 10.

Since 2016, the district has provided the PSAT to all 10th and 11th-grade students. But León said that giving the test to younger students will focus their attention on college and help identity those who are ready for advanced classes. The PSAT is designed to help students prepare for the SAT, which is used in college admissions, and to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The district, which was under state control for 22 years until February, is getting some assistance in its effort to improve students’ college outcomes.

For instance, KIPP, the national charter-school network with eight schools in Newark, is sharing its strategies for helping students choose the right college with guidance counselors at three district high schools.

And the higher-education institutions in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, including Essex County College and Rutgers University-Newark, plan to create more “dual-enrollment” programs that allow high-school students to earn college credits, said NCLC Executive Director Reginald Lewis.

“We’re all going to do a better job,” Lewis said, “of making sure that once Newark residents get in our doors, that we help them persist.”

Time crunch

In victory for teachers union, Newark superintendent scraps longer hours for low-performing schools

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Roger León at Hawkins Street School, one of the schools that will lose its extended hours.

Newark’s new superintendent is eliminating a program that extended the hours of struggling schools, which the teachers union has long attacked as ineffective and unfair to educators.

Teachers at roughly 30 schools will no longer receive $3,000 annual stipends for the extra hours, a provision written into the current teachers contract, which extends to 2019. Instead, all 64 district schools will get extra funding for before and after-school programs, Superintendent Roger León said in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 10, resulting in new hours for the affected schools just days after the new school year began. The district is still working to adjust pickup times for students who are bused to school, according to León’s email. A few of the schools will phase out their extended hours later in the year, the email said.

“We will not continue to do the same things as before and be surprised when the results do not change,” León wrote, adding that cutting the extra hours would save the district $5 million.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Thursday, León said the move is intended to create more uniformity among schools and the services they provide. Now, all schools will get additional money to pay for programs outside of the regular school day, which schools can tailor to their individual needs, though students who are struggling academically will continue to receive “intensive” support, he said.

“Ultimately, the idea would be by October having completely different after-school and before-school programming that meets the needs of each respective school,” León said.

The extended time was first included in the teachers contract in 2012 as part of a larger improvement plan for the targeted schools, which was developed by Cami Anderson, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent. The plan also designated some low-performing schools as “renew” schools, where teachers had to reapply for their positions and work longer hours.

Anderson also closed some schools and gave principals new hiring authority. Both actions left dozens of tenured teachers without positions, so Anderson created a fund to pay those teachers to perform support duties in schools. In 2014, that fund for “employees without placement” cost the district $35 million out of its nearly $1 billion budget, though by last year the fund had shrunk to $8 million for about 100 unassigned teachers, according to officials.

León said in Tuesday’s email that he was also eliminating the fund, which he said would save the district another $6 million. The teachers union president said he believed all the unassigned teachers now have placements, but the district did not respond to a request to confirm that.

León is also removing the “renew” and “turnaround” labels from low-performing schools, citing their “progress and student achievement,” according to the email.

“I applaud everyone’s efforts at renew or turnaround schools and acknowledge what has been accomplished,” he wrote.

Now that León has abolished his predecessors’ school-improvement program, he will be expected to create his own. Many schools remain mired in poor performance, even as the district overall has made strides in recent years.

When the teachers union agreed to the extended hours in its 2012 contract with the district, it was hailed nationally as a major breakthrough in efforts to revamp troubled schools. But even as the union agreed last year to keep the provision in its current contract, union officials have assailed the turnaround effort as a failure.

NTU President John Abeigon told Chalkbeat on Thursday that the program had been a “scam” and “nothing more than extended childcare.” He added that the stipend teachers received amounted to about $7 per hour for the extra time they worked.

In 2016, a district-commissioned survey of 787 teachers at schools with extended hours found that two-thirds of teachers at schools where the extra time was spent on student instruction said the time was valuable. But in a survey the union conducted in April, the 278 teachers who responded gave the extended hours low ratings for effectiveness in boosting student achievement.

Some teachers in the union survey praised the longer hours, saying their schools used them effectively to lengthen class periods, run after-school clubs, or allow teachers to plan lessons or review student data. But others said the extra time was squandered, leaving staff and students exhausted with little evidence of improved student outcomes to show for it. (Students’ pass rates on state tests stayed flat or declined at most “renew” schools in the first years of the program.)

The union also has complained that many teachers felt compelled to work the extra hours because those who refused to could be transferred to different schools. Under the terms of the original extended-day agreement, teachers were required to work an extra hour per day and attend trainings during the summer and some weekends.

In León’s email to employees, he said every extended-day school had set different work requirements and “none are consistent with the original design.” The longer days may also be contributing to high teacher turnover in those schools, he wrote, adding that principals of schools with regular hours told him they did not want to extend their hours.

Abeigon, the union president, applauded León’s decision to scrap the extra work hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” he said.

León said Thursday that he is now working on a new turnaround program. Once it’s ready, he promised to share the details with affected families before publicly announcing which schools are part of it — an effort to avoid the student protests that erupted when Anderson identified her “turnaround” schools.

He also said he was still considering whether he would ever close schools that fail to improve or to reverse their declining enrollments. Anderson’s decision to shutter nearly a dozen long-struggling schools continues to fuel resentment among her critics even years later.

“I think the whole idea of how much time does a school get to correct itself is a very important one and I’m going to need to be really reflective on it,” León said. “I’ve seen what closing schools does with people who do not feel that they were aware of it or a part of fixing it.”