De Blasio pushes for further test score improvement in NYC schools
Announcement at Bed-Stuy’s much-improved P.S. 628
New York City kids scored a bit higher this year on state math and English exams than they did last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press conference in Brooklyn on Thursday. He was joined by Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and other officials.
There’s plenty of room for improvement, however. Only about a third of the city’s students scored high enough to be ranked as proficient in math and English.
This is the second year that the tougher tests aligned with the Common Core standards were administered.
The gain was greatest in math, where 34.2 percent of students met proficiency standards in 2014, up from 29.6 percent in 2013. In English, 28.4 percent of students met the standards, up from 26.4 percent last year.
De Blasio called the increase “a beginning.”
“Progress, yes – but we have a very long road ahead,” he told reporters gathered at The Brooklyn Brownstone School P.S. 628 in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“This is a new standard and a right standard,” he said. “To their great credit, the Board of Regents recalibrated the tests to reflect the truth about achievement levels.” De Blasio and Farina said they believed in the Common Core curriculum, but it required making investment in order to “do it right.”
While the numbers seem pretty daunting, Farina noted that if this year’s scores were translated to the previous test standards, “they would have been in the 90s.”
De Blasio added that “tests like this are only one measure. A school is not the sum of its test scores; there are multiple forms of assessment.”
A positive sign was that the poorest performing kids were doing better than before. Alice Brown, an official in the city Department of Education’s Office of Teaching and Learning said there were five percent fewer students scoring at level 1 (the lowest level of proficiency) in 2014.
Blacks and Hispanics, English Language Learners and special education students all showed slight gains.
De Blasio shared the credit for the improvement with the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We want to give credit, the credit that’s due to the previous administration, for their part of the equation. That’s only fair and right,” de Blasio said.
Dennis Walcott, former Schools Chancellor under Bloomberg, issued a statement after the scores were released congratulating the kids and their teachers, and pointing out that “we began turning around a flailing education system” 12 years ago.
De Blasio noted several changes his administration is rolling out at city schools. Most notably, roughly 50,000 children will be attending preschool in the city on September 4, up from 20,000.
There will also be “more teacher training across the board. Nobody epitomizes the value of teacher training like this Chancellor. She believes in training teachers all the time.” The new teacher contract allots 80 minutes of training and peer-to-peer coaching on Mondays. Teachers will also be spending more time with parents.
De Blasio said the city was providing more after-school academic enrichment for middle-schoolers, and will be “collaborating with school communities across the city to help them excel.”
De Blasio and Farina said they chose P.S. 628 for the announcement because the school made “extraordinary” progress on the tests under the guidance of founding Principal Nakia Haskins.
From 2013 to 2014, the percent of P.S. 628 students at or above the proficient level in math rose from 20.3 percent to 36.8 percent. In English, the number of students at or above proficiency level rose from 27.5 percent to 44.1 percent.
Other officials at the event included Borough President Eric Adams, City Council education chair Daniel Dromm and Assembly education chair Cathy Nolan.
Statewide, students did just slightly better than NYC kids in math, and a few percentage points better in English. Across the state, the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level and above in math rose from 31.2 to 35.8. The percentage of students scoring at the proficient level and above in English rose from 31.3 to 31.4 percent.
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