stacking up

Among 'mega-states,' a slower rise for New York's NAEP scores

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Of the country’s five largest states, New York had the highest percentage of low-income students score proficient on a national exam. But the state’s scores did not compare favorably across the board.

New York State students’ scores on a test known as “the nation’s report card” have not risen as quickly as scores in other large states, according to a new report.

The report compares student performance in five states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a biennial assessment administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. The reading, math, and science tests are considered the only reliable yardstick for measuring educational progress across states.

In 2011 — the last time that fourth- and eighth-graders took the tests  — New York was one of only two states to post significant score declines since the previous test administration. (New York City’s scores were flat.)

The new report shows that New York has also posted smaller gains over time than most “mega-states.” The states are California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas, and with New York, they enroll 40 percent of the country’s students.

In reading and in fourth-grade math, Florida’s students improved most between 1990 and 2011. Texas led the pack in eighth-grade math, with a 32-point increase over that time period. In New York, eighth-graders’ math scores rose by 20 points — but that meant that the state actually lost ground compared to the rest of the nation. The state’s students beat the national average only in fourth-grade reading.

State Education Commissioner John King called the results “disappointing but not surprising.” In a statement, he said the state’s new learning standards, known as the Common Core, would improve students’ NAEP performance. The state is set to administer tests aligned to the new standards this spring, and education officials are warning that scores are likely to fall.

“The scores on this NAEP report underscore a tough but necessary truth: Our students are not where they should be,” King said. “The reforms we’re implementing will help get them there.”

New York did compare favorably to the other “mega-states” in some ways. The state had the highest percentage of low-income students who tested proficient on the eighth-grade reading test — 24 percent, which was statistically higher than the proficiency rate for similar students students nationwide. Students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch hit the proficiency bar 47 percent of the time.

But the state lagged on at least one surprising statistic. In fourth-grade math, low-income students scored at the same level as similar students across the country. But students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch posted far lower scores than similar students in other states, and nationally. Fewer than half of those students hit NAEP’s proficiency bar, compared to 57 percent nationally.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.