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Teacher's Union, activists react to release of statewide test results

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 7/26/2012, 3:41 p.m.
Teacher's Union, activists react to release of statewide test results

For the second year in a row, New York City can claim an increase in statewide math and English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency exam scores.

According to the state education department, the results of students in the third through eighth grade revealed that 60 percent passed the statewide math exams, compared to 57 percent last year. Forty-seven percent of students passed the statewide math exam, compared to 44 percent last year. There are 440,000 students in third through eighth grade in the city.

According to the results, 37.2 percent of African-American students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard, compared with 55.1 percent for all students and 66.4 percent for white students. About 46.1 percent of Black students met or exceeded the standard in math, compared with 64.8 percent for all students and 74 percent for Whites.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew responded to the test scores positively and negatively.

"The good news: This modest increase in scores--particularly in the middle schools--is a tribute to the students and teachers who worked hard last year," said Mulgrew in an emailed statement to the AmNews. "The bad news: The achievement gap in reading is not closing. Not only do Black and Hispanic students still lag well behind whites and Asians, but in the ELA results, the gap actually widened this year."

The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice also released a statement explaining their disappointment over the racial achievement gap and aimed their criticism at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"It is really troubling to see that the racial achievement gap, which the mayor has touted over the years as having closed, remains just as wide between Black and Latino students and their white counterparts, and that there has been a steady decline in proficiency for English language learners since 2010," said Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader for the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice. "While it is encouraging that there has been a small increase in ELA and math proficiency for students, we still have a city where over 60 percent of eighth graders, who started their education under Mayor Bloomberg's administration, are not reading and writing on grade level."

While Bloomberg might have a different way to fix the issue, he also admitted to not resting on his laurels in a statement released in conjunction with the exam results. "The progress we see this year doesn't give us a reason to rest--it gives us a reason to strive for even greater gains," Bloomberg said in a news release. "There's still much more work to do, but there's no question our students are headed in the right direction."

New York State Education Department Commissioner John B. King Jr., while acknowledging the improvement, understood that more work needs to be done. "We're building a ladder, grade by grade, to college and career readiness," said King. "These results are a small, positive sign of growth, but not enough of our students are climbing as steadily as they should be. Next school year, we will start to implement reforms to make that ladder strong enough to support all our students as they climb toward college and career readiness."

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch agreed. "There is some positive momentum in these numbers, but too many of our students, especially students of color, English language learners and special education students, are currently not on a course for college and career readiness," Tisch said. "That's why we are continuing to press forward with critical reforms to ensure all of our kids are ready for college and careers."

Tisch cited this coming fall, when she said the system will institute a "new, more challenging, content rich curriculum." She hopes that the new teacher evaluation process contributes to an increase in scores.