December 8, 2009
Frustrated with criticism that city students made no progress on a national math exam in the past two years, Chancellor Joel Klein instead focused on a shrinking performance gap separating city students from their state and national peers today.
Speaking at Tweed Courthouse this afternoon, Klein argued that the city has made greater gains in fourth and eighth grade math than the rest of New York State and the United States overall.
City fourth graders improved their math scores by 11 points since 2003, Klein said, compared to a rise of one point in the state and five points in the nation. He pointed to similar patterns in eighth grade scores. The percentage of students scoring at or above a proficient level also rose faster in New York City than in the state or nation.
Klein said that because other states like Massachusetts have state standards that hew more closely to what is tested on national exams, it is difficult to compare New York City’s results to those of other major urban areas like Boston. The city ranked third out of the eighteen urban districts tested by NAEP in fourth grade scores and sixth in eighth grade scores.
Klein also boasted that the city is continuing to close the gap that separates it from the rest of the state. The city’s black fourth graders, for example, are now outperforming black students in the state and country by four and five points respectively.
But comparing minority student achievement in the city to suburban minority scores sidesteps the lingering racial achievement gap in the city between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, which has remained essentially unchanged since 2003.
Klein acknowledged the gap between city students’ scores remains a problem, and that the gap will become more difficult to close as the state raises its expectations for all students.
Klein said that the difference between national and state scores showed the need for the state to toughen its curriculum standards to match national expectations, as state Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Merryl Tisch have urged.
“I do think for our reforms to be really robust…we do have to raise our standards, teach our kids the things they are going to be tested on,” Klein said.
The teachers union accused Klein of operating under a double standard, saying that while he focuses on long-term trends here, he wants to use short-term data to close schools and evaluate teachers.
“The administration’s policy is that a school that shows no progress for two years should be closed,” UFT president Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.