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As in most districts, city students' scores on national test are flat

New York City students posted essentially flat scores on a national exam considered the most accurate measure of student progress.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as NAEP, or the nation’s report card, is given every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders across the country. Statewide results, which came out last month, showed that New York was one of just two states to post significant score drops.

In local results released today, city students bucked that trend. Their scores stayed flat or rose or fell by degrees that are not statistically significant.

District-level results were released today for 21 districts across the country that participate in a more detailed study. Only one of the districts, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg, posted significant gains in reading, and nine districts showed significant gains in math.

Still, only about a third of city fourth-graders met or exceeded NAEP’s benchmark for proficiency in reading and math, about half as many as who met proficiency standards on this year’s state tests. It was the discrepancy between state test scores and NAEP results that triggered state officials to acknowledge last year that the state’s test scores were inflated.

On this year’s NAEP exam, New York City students’ reading scores dropped by three points, the same as statewide. Eighth-graders’ math scores fell by one point, less than the three points that scores across the state declined this year.

Fourth-graders’ reading scores didn’t change, while eighth-graders’ reading scores increased by two points, more than the single point gain experienced statewide and nationally.

None of the city’s shifts since 2009 were considered statistically significant. But gains in fourth- and eighth-grade math scores and fourth-grade reading scores since 2002, when the district’s performance was first measured, are still up significantly.

Department of Education officials emphasized that fact in a press release touting the new scores today. They also called attention to city students’ performance compared against that of students across the state and the performance of low-income students in New York City, which was also one of four districts with smaller-than-average score gaps separating higher- and lower-income students.

“On all four tests, low-income students in New York City now outperform their peers across the nation, and that’s a reason to be proud,” Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said in a statement. “The key challenge is to change our instruction and improve our assessments so that students keep moving forward.”

In a statement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the newest NAEP scores “generally undistinguished” and said they showed that fundamental changes are needed if schools are to help more students reach academic proficiency.

“This year’s NAEP scores, combined with the city’s generally undistinguished results in prior years, is a lesson on how kids get shortchanged by school reform driven by a political agenda rather than research and evidence,” Mulgrew said. “We’re not going to see real and consistent improvement until the system turns its back on test prep and begins to focus on strong curriculum and real instruction.”

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