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Scores Rise Slightly on State's Math and English Tests, City Says

By Amy Zimmer | August 14, 2014 5:08pm
 Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that scores were up slightly on standardized state tests, on Thursday, Aug. 14, in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that scores were up slightly on standardized state tests, on Thursday, Aug. 14, in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
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Twitter/Mayor's Office

MANHATTAN — City kids scored higher this year on state math and English tests, following last year's dismal results, officials announced.

About 34 percent of the city's third- through eighth-graders passed the math test this year, up from about 30 percent the year before, according to figures released Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. About 28 percent of students passed the English exam, up from 26 percent the previous year.

"We have made progress," Fariña told reporters at a press conference at Decatur Playground in Bed-Stuy.

This was the second year of students taking new, harder state tests aligned with the federal Common Core standards, and Fariña said she was pleased to see the gains.

"It's never going to be enough," she said, added that it's important to note that "while the work is harder, the achievements are there."

The city's scores still lag behind the state, which saw about 31 percent of students pass the English test and nearly 36 percent pass the math test.

To lower some of the stakes — and anxiety — of the state's standardized tests, the city Department of Education's new promotion policy no longer relies exclusively on the scores to decide whether third-graders through eighth-graders must go to summer school or repeat a grade. Hoping to take "the temperature down around testing," Fariña announced earlier this year that schools would instead use an array of evaluations, including a student's classroom work and report card grades.

"Tests like this are only one measure," de Blasio said Thursday. "A school is not the sum of its test scores."

The harder tests stoked a growing movement of families that have chosen to opt out of the exams this year.

There was also a flurry of protests after the English test, when hundreds of educators, parents and students from the city's top-notch schools like Park Slope's P.S. 321 and TriBeCa's P.S. 234 took to the streets complaining about age-inappropriate content and poorly explained multiple-choice questions that seemed to have no one right answer.

Anna Allanbrook, principal of Carroll Gardens’ highly regarded Brooklyn New School, where 80 percent of students opted out of the tests this year, questioned how useful the results were on Thursday.

"Once a test is too hard; you're not getting accurate data,” she said. "If 70 percent can't pass, it's not telling you much about what they can and can't do.”

Angry parents and principals called on the state Department of Education to release the questions from the exams — a practice the state often shunned since the tests were pricey to create and the department sometimes recycles questions for future exams. Previously, the department released a quarter of the questions to the public, but in light of this year's backlash, it released half the questions for the math and English exams.

Students will be able to see their test scores in the last week of August, de Blasio said.

"The school system overall is not where it needs to be," the mayor added. "We need to have a reality where every neighborhood school in the city is a place where parents want to send their kids."