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On NAEP, Puerto Rican students lag far behind other U.S. kids

Thousands of students in New York have their roots in Puerto Rico, and many make the trip back every year. When they do, they’re traveling to an island whose children lag behind other American students on a national test of math skills.

According to Education Week, Puerto Rican students have performed far worse than students in the nation as a whole on the math component of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test used to compare student performance across states. (The test, translated into Spanish, has been given in Puerto Rico since 2003. Puerto Rican students don’t take NAEP’s reading section.)

The students’ low scores mean that the many teachers in New York City whose students are recent arrivals from Puerto Rico must try to make up for the effects of a deficient school system. The number of students in city schools who have attended school in Puerto Rico is not available, a spokesperson for the Department of Education told me, but almost 800,000 residents of New York City identified as Puerto Rican in the 2000 census.

Virtually no students in Puerto Rican schools scored at the Proficient or Advanced levels on the test 2005. And while the 2007 scores were reported in a different format, they also show a wide gap between students in Puerto Rico and the rest of the country.

Compared to students in New York City, Puerto Rico’s fourth- and eighth-graders also performed poorly. In 2005, New York City fourth-graders’ average score was 231 in 2005, while 4th graders in Puerto Rico averaged 183; New York’s 8th graders averaged 267 to Puerto Rican 8th graders’ 218.

Back in 1985, the New York City Department of Education collaborated with its Puerto Rican counterpart to provide “education passports” for high school students transferring back and forth between schools in the two locations. The passports provided detailed information about the coursework the student had completed and their grades. But the program was funded with a one-year grant.

Puerto Rican schools made the news in 2006 when a budget crisis forced the public schools and other government services to shut down for about two weeks. And schools closed again for 10 days late February of this year when teachers went on strike, demanding better pay and more materials for their classrooms.

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