Editorial: Shrinking test scores

August 15, 2013 Editorial Staff
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The latest round of test scores is out and they are dismal.

For the first time, students were required to take tests in line with considerably tougher federal mandates, under what is known as the Common Core curriculum, which is intended to prepare students not just to take a test but to succeed in the work world.

The results show a dramatic decline in success, with fewer than half the New York City students in third through eighth grade getting passing scores.

How bad is it? In English language arts, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards dropped 21 points from a not-particularly-good 47 percent to an appalling 26 percent.

In math, the decline was similar, with scores plummeting from a 60 percent pass rate to 30 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

According to reports, where states have adopted the Common Core curriculum to shape their tests, students have done far worse than they had done when tests were devised by state authorities without any need to use a nationwide yardstick.

Predictably, New York’s self-proclaimed “Education Mayor” said the results were good news, citing the fact that New York City students did better on the tests than their peers in other cities around New York State. In addition, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city students “are closing the gap with students in the rest of the state, something few people thought possible a decade ago.”

Nonetheless, it seems to us that it’s time for the administration to acknowledge that much of the vaunted improvement over the past several years has been little more than smoke and mirrors.

The mayor made his mark “closing” schools and opening clusters of new small schools in large school buildings with the same students in the name of educational improvement; that does not seem to have worked.

With a new mayor for this city to look forward to, the time has certainly come to take a long, hard look at what works in education and what is just window-dressing, and to do finally what needs to be done for the students to succeed in school and beyond.

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