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MAP: See How Your Elementary School Ranks on State Tests

By  Amy Zimmer and Nigel Chiwaya | October 5, 2015 7:34am 

NEW YORK CITY — Fourth graders at elite gifted and talented programs in Manhattan outperformed students at more than 743 other elementary schools on state English and math exams, the results of this year's tests show. 

All five of the top scoring schools on the fourth grade English Language Arts exam were schools with gifted programs and four of the top five scorers on the math exam were, too.  

The Upper West Side's Special Music School, a program that accepts students based on auditions and has only 15 kids per grade, was the top school in the city, with 100 percent of its fourth grade class passing the English and math exams — the only school to have a 100 percent proficiency rate for both.

DNAinfo New York looked at performance for fourth grade test results, which often factor heavily into students' middle school admissions.

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Other high achieving schools for both exams included the Anderson School, a G&T school on the Upper West Side that accepts kids from across the city, as well as other citywide G&T schools, NEST+M, on the Lower East Side and East Harlem's TAG Young Scholars.

The Upper East Side's P.S. 77 Lower Lab School, a gifted school for students in District 2, which includes TriBeCa, the Village and Chelsea, was also a top performer.

The one outlier to crack the top five was Sunset Park's P.S. 172.

This school — where nearly 90 percent of its students qualify for free lunch, more than a quarter are special needs students and English Language Learners and nearly 80 percent are Hispanic — saw 100 percent of its fourth graders pass the math exam, tying it with the elite Special Music School and Anderson.

Few education experts and parents were surprised that G&T programs performed well.

"Of course they have high test scores: they choose kids based on their ability to pass standardized tests," said Amy Stuart Wells, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College.

"We should be worried if those schools didn't have high test scores."

The results highlight that when trying to close the achievement gap — in a school system where more than 50 percent of Asian and white students are proficient in English and math but fewer than 20 percent of black and Hispanic students are — it's important to look at multiple measures beyond test scores, Wells said.

"Is it just about the admissions process that makes a good school?"

See DNAinfo's Map of Racial Segregation at the City's Gifted and Talented Programs

How One School Bucks the City's Gifted and Talented Racial Segregation

Neighborhood schools that performed well on ELA exams included Greenwich Village's P.S. 41, where 89 percent passed; Bath Beach's P.S. 748, a neighborhood school with a gifted program attracting students from across Brooklyn's District 20 where 86 percent passed; Park Slope's P.S. 321 where 86 percent passed but there was also a large contingent of students who opted out; Gramercy's P.S. 40 where 84 percent passed; and Windsor Terrace's P.S. 154 where 83 percent passed.

For the math exams, high-performing neighborhood schools were the Upper West Side's P.S. 199 where 93 percent passed; and Broad Channel's P.S. 47, Bayside's P.S. 203 and Midtown East's P.S. 59, where roughly 92 percent passed.

Rosy Rosenkrantz, a Park Slope mom whose son Cerulean Ozarow competed and won on "Jeopardy!" kids week and graduated from the Upper West Side's prestigious Anderson School in the spring, didn't put much weight on the exams.

But he and his friends thought the school did too much test prep, she said.

"They said test prep was boring and a waste of time and energy," Rosenkrantz said. "They would much rather learn than prep for tests."

Many educators and parents have criticized the high stakes tests, sparking a small, but growing, opt-out movement.

Less than 2 percent of the city's 400,000 third through eighth graders opted out of this year's tests — with roughly 7,200 sitting out the math test and 5,400 refusing to take the English exam.  A few schools like Central Park East 1 in East Harlem and the Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens — which are highly regarded by families and educators — saw the majority of their students opt out.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña expressed their lack of support of opting out and instead promoted the ways they've tried to take down the temperature of high-stakes testing, in hopes of quelling the movement.

They got rid of the school letter grades based on test scores and no longer use the scores as the sole basis to determine a student's promotion to the next grade, for instance.

"The test gives us a piece of evidence," de Blasio said previously. "The real work of moving the lives of children takes much, much more."