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An Annotated Press Release?

Last night, at the GothamSchools party, I had the opportunity to say hello to David Cantor, Press Secretary for the New York City Department of Education. As he turned to talk with an angry parent, a piece of paper fell out of his pocket, and I picked it up. It looked like a draft of the press release he issued for the release of the 2009 NYC NAEP math scores, but it was all marked up. Could I have found his annotations as he was drafting the press release?

Chancellor Klein Applauds New York City Public School Students For Six Years of Sustained and Significant Gains in Math on National Exam (Let’s get that “six years” in at the start, to make it look like the growth has been steady, rather than stalled over the past two years.)

City Students Outperform the Rest of the State and Nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (“Outperform”? Only in the sense that NYC fourth-graders scored almost as high as students in the nation overall, and were significantly lower than eighth-graders nationally. But it’s a headline, and who pays attention to them, anyway?)

Record Number of Students Performing at or Above Proficiency

Chancellor Calls on State to Adopt More Rigorous Standards to Ensure Further Progress

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today applauded consistent and sustained gains by New York City public school students on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math exam. (Consistent and sustained might be a stretch, but maybe it’ll pass.) Under the Bloomberg Administration, the progress of the City’s fourth and eighth graders-the two grades tested-has outpaced that of fourth and eighth graders in the rest of New York State and the nation. The 2009 results show that New York City students in both grades have made statistically significant improvement since 2003, when NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment in math was launched, and have raised their scores each time the biannual exam has been administered. (Maybe no one will catch the fact that the increases in scores from 2007 to 2009 could be an illusion due to chance alone.) New York City fourth-grade scores rose 11 scale score points since 2003, compared to an increase of one point among fourth-grade students in the rest of the State during that time and five points among fourth graders nationally. (Now, here’s the real good news. But will anybody acknowledge it?) New York City eighth-grade scores rose seven points since 2003, compared to an increase of one point among eighth-grade students in the rest of the State and five points among eighth graders nationally. (Ditto. I hope people pay attention to the average gains since 2003.)

In addition, the number of fourth-grade City students performing at or above proficient on the NAEP exam rose 14 percentage points since 2003, from 21 percent to 35 percent, only three points below the national average. For the first time, New York City eighth graders also made statistically significant gains at or above proficiency, with 26 percent of students now at or above proficient, compared to 20 percent in 2003. (Thank goodness for 2003. If we had to compare everything to 2007, we’d look like dogmeat.)

The narrowing of the gap between New York City students and those in the rest of the State on NAEP follows a pattern similar to the one established on New York State math exams over the same period. (Gotta claim that the pattern on NAEP is the same as the pattern on the New York State assessment, even though the gains on NAEP have been modest overall, and nonexistent since 2007, whereas the gains on the state assessment have been astronomical, which undermines the legitimacy of the state tests and everything we use them for.) Since 2003, the gap separating New York City fourth graders and their statewide peers on NAEP has decreased from 15 scale score points to five points. During this time, the gap between City fourth graders and those in the rest of the State on the New York State math exam has decreased from 18 scale score points to two points. In the eighth grade, the gap separating City students and their statewide peers went from 21 scale score points to 15 points on NAEP, and from 23 points to 11 points on the State exam. (Not sure why it’s important to toss in the NYC vs. New York State comparison for NAEP, but let’s throw as many statistics out there as we can, and see what sticks.)

“Today’s results reflect what we have seen in the classroom and what we have seen on State tests since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools-that New York City students are making consistent and meaningful progress thanks to their hard work and the dedication and determination of our educators. The fact that more students than ever are at or above proficient is especially encouraging,” Chancellor Klein said. (“More students than ever are at or above proficient” can deflect attention from the fact that the average score didn’t increase from 2007 to 2009, and that the increase in the percentage of proficient students in both grades four and eight over that period also wasn’t significant.)

“A lot of work still lies ahead of us. The next important step is for New York State to adopt the more rigorous national common core standards so we can help all students reach their potential.” (Anybody out there against higher standards? I didn’t think so. We’ll worry about the fact that 85% of NYC fourth-graders are proficient on the state test, but only 35% are on NAEP, later.)

New York City students are also doing well in comparison to students in other urban districts that share their results publicly as part of the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). New York City fourth graders rank third among their peers in the 18 participating districts, with City fourth graders eligible for free or reduced-price lunch ranking first among their peers and outperforming the nation by seven points. (Using ranks can obscure the fact that the averages are estimates, and that NYC is really tied for seventh with Miami-Dade, San Diego, Houston and Boston, behind Charlotte and Austin.) New York City eighth graders rank sixth out of the 18 urban districts. (Sixth out of 18 sounds pretty good, even if New York City scores didn’t differ significantly from large cities nationally.)

Students in nearly every fourth- and eighth-grade subgroup-white, black, Hispanic, low-income-made statistically significant progress since 2003. (“Nearly every” subgroup-except white and Hispanic eighth-graders. That’s nearly every, isn’t it? And let’s hammer that “since 2003,” because there were no increases in any of these groups from 2007 to 2009 at either grade level. ) New York City students in these grades also perform at nearly the same level, and in some cases exceed, their suburban peers in New York State. The City’s white fourth graders, who gained 10 scale score points since 2003, outperformed white fourth graders in the State’s suburbs by five points. The City’s black fourth graders gained eight points since 2003 and now score four points above their suburban peers. (Saying it this way can make it seem like NYC is closing the achievement gap, even though the black-white gap has not shrunk at either grade four or grade eight since 2003. I hope that nobody says that the Hispanic-white and black-white gaps at grades four and eight are the largest they’ve ever been since 2003; that would be mean.)

NAEP, often referred to as “the nation’s report card,” is the nation’s ongoing representative sample survey of student achievement in core subject areas and reports the educational progress of students in grades 4 and 8. Mandated by Congress, NAEP is administered by the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Eighteen cities varying in demographic makeup, including New York City, participate in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment by allowing their results to be reported publicly. The results for this year’s fourth- and eighth-grade math tests were released in Washington, D.C. this morning. The results of NAEP English and science exams will be made public in the spring. (Whew! We made it. I wonder if anybody will fall for this?

Thank goodness that damned eduwonkette isn’t blogging anymore.)

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