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Comments of the week: Educators probe new city testing data

This week was all about test scores for many of our commenters, who followed along with us as the state released the results of this year’s third through eighth grade exams, and city officials put their spin on them.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the public’s main takeaway from the scores should be that charter schools are making strides, and in many cases outperforming the district schools.

We took a closer look at the charter school gains, but some of our readers said people should be careful about making direct comparisons between charter and district schools, because in some cases they serve different populations of students.

One commenter said the mayor should not be celebrating the gains, because the schools still have a long way to go:

I was more struck by the fact that only half the kids in charter schools are reading and writing at grade level. What ever happened to the theory that it was mainly “union rules” that were holding kids back? Why are charter schools failing to educate nearly half their students even though they’re mostly union free and, more importantly, what can be done for the students who are not succeeding in charter or public schools?

Some parents provided a lens into how some charter schools achieved their gains:

I am a parent of a child that goes to AF Bushwick Middle school and I would like to say that during the 2011-2012 school year all of the parent and teachers had several meeting to discuss what they can change. [My child took practice tests] in Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies at least 2 months before the test. They also offer after school and Saturday class to help children that they feel are falling behind.

We all remember the impact a special teacher had on us; a teacher who refused to let us fall through the cracks; who pushed us and believed in us when we doubted ourselves; who sparked in us a lifelong curiosity and passion for learning. My daughter goes to Icahn Charter school 4 and I can tell that the great teachers that they have were the key for the school success.

In response to that comment, another reader noted that Icahn Charter Schools perform at the top of the list, and suggested they could be viewed as a model network that has been successful but stayed out of the public political fray:

Without spending millions on outreach, they end up with enrollments that are very similar to their home districts in terms of the percentages of at-risk kids that they serve. They have extremely low student attrition rates and/or they backfill their classes to replace the kids who do leave. Their students test as well as anyone’s.

And a few commenters said upcoming changes to the state exams made the city’s overall incremental gains less meaningful to outside observers:

The narrative of, “None of these scores really will mean anything a year from now since they are throwing out the state tests and starting over with Common Core” seems to be lost on the media.

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