New York City’s recovery from a testing reality check got off to a promising start in 2014.

One year after scores plummeted following the state’s adoption of Common Core-aligned tests, city students collectively outpaced the rest of New York on both the math and English exams. In math, 34.2 percent of city students passed the exams, up 4.6 points from last year. In English, 28.4 percent of students passed, a one-point gain, according to city figures.

The city’s gains meant it shrank the gap between its English scores and the state’s to the slimmest margin since 2006. Statewide, 35.8 percent of students were considered proficient in math this year, and 31.4 percent of students considered proficient in English. But achievement gaps among city students remain wide.

“It’s a story of modest but real progress,” Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch said.

The numbers still show that the vast majority of New York’s students are not at their grade level in reading, writing, and math. But they also show that more struggling students were making progress out of the lowest category.

On a conference call with reporters, state education officials emphasized that they now believed the scores were an authentic indication of student academic proficiency. Test scores were widely seen as grossly inflated in 2009, when city proficiency rates reached 82 percent in math and 69 percent in English.

Commissioner John King attributed the city’s overall progress to its early implementation of the Common Core standards, citing the Common Core fellows program and strong professional development.

They started early on the Common Core,” King said. “I think that’s a factor.”

City students in all racial and ethnic groups did better on this year’s tests than last year, and state officials also said that indicated a narrowing achievement gap. But the numbers show that scores of white and Asian students improved more than those of their black and Hispanic peers — meaning that for the second straight year, the so-called achievement gap actually widened in most categories.

For instance, the math-proficiency gap between the city’s white and black students jumped by more than two points to 37.2 points this year. In English, it jumped 30.5 to 31.3 points. The gaps in both subjects also widened between white and Hispanic students, from 31.5 points to 32.7 points in math and 30.2 points to 31.7 points in English, as well as between Asian students and all other groups.

Success Academy, which puts an enormous emphasis on preparing its students to take the state tests, quickly released its overall performance, showing its students’ outperformed the rest of the city by a wide margin. In math, 94 percent of its students passed the math exam, while 64 percent passed the English exam.

State officials estimated that at least 105,000 students didn’t take at least one of this year’s exams. King said that about half of those were eighth graders who were allowed to skip the math exam because they were taking a high school-level Regents as a replacement. He said that between 55,000 and 60,000 additional students did not take this year’s exam, which a spokesperson said was up from as few as 10,000 students last year. The spike is likely attributed to a parent-led movement to opt their children out of taking the exams in protest of the state’s testing policies.

 

Here is the state’s full report: