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 <> .

Betsy DeVos

To promote virtual schools, Betsy DeVos cites a graduate who’s far from the norm

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June.

If Betsy Devos is paying any attention to unfolding critiques of virtual charter schools, she didn’t let it show last week when she spoke to free-market policy advocates in Bellevue, Washington.

Just days after Politico published a scathing story about virtual charters’ track record in Pennsylvania, DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, was touting their successes at the Washington Policy Center’s annual dinner.

DeVos’s speech was largely identical in its main points to one she gave at Harvard University last month. But she customized the stories of students who struggled in traditional schools with local examples, and in doing so provided an especially clear example of why she believes in virtual schools.

From the speech:

I also think of Sandeep Thomas. Sandeep grew up impoverished in Bangalore, India and experienced terrible trauma in his youth. He was adopted by a loving couple from New Jersey, but continued to suffer from the unspeakable horrors he witnessed in his early years. He was not able to focus in school, and it took him hours to complete even the simplest assignment.

This changed when his family moved to Washington, where Sandeep was able to enroll in a virtual public school. This option gave him the flexibility to learn in the quiet of his own home and pursue his learning at a pace that was right for him. He ended up graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, along with having earned well over a year of college credit. Today, he’s working in finance and he is a vocal advocate for expanding options that allow students like him a chance to succeed.

But Thomas — who spoke at a conference of a group DeVos used to chair, Advocates for Children, in 2013 as part of ongoing work lobbying for virtual charters — is hardly representative of online school students.

In Pennsylvania, Politico reported last week, 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters with an average 48 percent graduation rate. In Indiana, an online charter school that had gotten a stunning six straight F grades from the state — one of just three schools in that positionis closing. And an Education Week investigation into Colorado’s largest virtual charter school found that not even a quarter of the 4,000 students even log on to do work every day.

The fact that in many states with online charters, large numbers of often needy students have enrolled without advancing has not held DeVos back from supporting the model. (A 2015 study found that students who enrolled in virtual charters in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin did just as well as similar students who stayed in brick-and-mortar schools.) In fact, she appeared to ignore their track records during the confirmation process in January, citing graduation rates provided by a leading charter operator that were far higher — nearly 40 points in one case — than the rates recorded by the schools’ states.

She has long backed the schools, and her former organization has close ties to major virtual school operators, including K12, the one that generated the inflated graduation numbers. In her first week as education secretary, DeVos said, “I expect there will be more virtual schools.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the dinner.

expansion plans

Here are the next districts where New York City will start offering preschool for 3-year-olds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, visited a "Mommy and Me" class in District 27 in Queens, where the city is set to expand 3-K For All.

New York City officials on Tuesday announced which school districts are next in line for free pre-K for 3-year-olds, identifying East Harlem and the eastern neighborhoods of Queens for expansion of the program.

Building on its popular universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds, the city this year began serving even younger students with “3-K For All” in two high-needs school districts. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to make 3-K available to every family who wants it by 2021.

“Our education system all over the country had it backwards for too long,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We are recognizing we have to reach kids younger and more deeply if we’re going to be able to give them the foundation they need.”

But making preschool available to all of the city’s 3-year-olds will require an infusion of $700 million from the state or federal governments. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city can afford to expand to eight districts, at a cost of $180 million of city money a year.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle the city faces to make 3-K available universally. De Blasio warned that finding the room for an estimated 60,000 students will be a challenge. Space constraints were a major factor in picking the next districts for expansion, he said.

“I have to tell you, this will take a lot of work,” he said, calling it “even harder” than the breakneck rollout of pre-K for all 4-year-olds. “We’re building something brand new.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, has made expansion of early childhood education a cornerstone of his administration. The city kicked off its efforts this September in District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. More than 2,000 families applied for those seats, and 84 percent of those living in the pilot districts got an offer for enrollment, according to city figures.

According to the timeline released Thursday, the rollout will continue next school year in District 4 in Manhattan, which includes East Harlem; and District 27 in Queens, which includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaways.

By the 2019 – 2020 school year, the city plans to launch 3-K in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes the Grand Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods; and District 31, which spans all of Staten Island.

The 2020 – 2021 school year would see the addition of District 19 in Brooklyn, which includes East New York; and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

With all those districts up and running, the city expects to serve 15,000 students.

Admission to the city’s pre-K programs is determined by lottery. Families don’t have to live in the district where 3-K is being offered to apply for a seat, though preference will be given to students who do. With every expansion, the city expects it will take two years for each district to have enough seats for every district family who wants one.