November 1, 2011
News on “the nation’s report card,” sent home today by the U.S. Department of Education, is not good for New York State.
New York was one of just two states to post statistically significant declines on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a biennial assessment administered by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The state’s fourth-grade math scores fell for the second straight time, from a high of 243 points in 2007 to 238 this year. Scores on the eighth-grade math test and the reading tests showed no significant change.
Just 35 percent of fourth-graders in New York scored proficient or higher on the exam, considered the only reliable yardstick for measuring educational progress in a field of flawed state assessments. On the state’s own tests, whose scores dropped last year when state officials acknowledged that they had been inflated, more than 66 percent of fourth-graders were considered proficient in math.
It was the discrepancy between state test scores and NAEP results that triggered state officials to acknowledge that the state’s test scores were inflated in the first place.
State Education Commissioner John King called today’s results “disappointing and unacceptable.” In a statement, he said new state tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards, set to be given for the first time in three years, would improve New York students’ performance on the NAEP.
New York’s slip does not come as a total surprise. Math scores for fourth-graders fell in 2009, too — and that was when state test scores showed improvement. Since then, fourth-graders’ state math scores have stagnated, making any improvement or even stability on NAEP unlikely.
Nationally, students performed slightly better than ever before on the exam,. On average, score rose on fourth- and eighth-grade math tests and on the eighth-grade reading exam, while scores on the fourth-grade reading test stayed flat.
Despite this year’s stumble, over the last two decades, New York has seen a narrowing of the achievement gaps between white and black students and white and Hispanic students on the fourth-grade math exam, and also a narrowing of the gap between higher- and lower-income students in eighth-grade.
Today’s scores are for New York State as a whole; New York City results will come out later along with data from other urban school districts. Predicting the city’s NAEP picture isn’t straightforward: The city’s state test score gains have outpaced the state’s, but with so many of the state’s students enrolled in New York City schools, it would be hard for NAEP scores statewide to move one direction if the city’s scores moved the other way.