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Educators and advocates weigh in on New York State test scores

When the New York State Education Department released its grades 3-8 test results Friday afternoon, they were largely heralded as a win for the city, thanks to an unusual bump in English scores and smaller gains in math. Predictably, the announcement brought a flurry of responses from across the political spectrum. Here are just a few:

Carmen Fariña, New York City schools chancellor:

“We have seen incredible improvement on these exams, and it’s so important that we’ve seen it in every single school district – a testament to not only the hard work of students, but the importance of having strong educators at the helm: our superintendents, principals and teachers … In addition to the increases in proficiency, we saw a substantial decrease in students scoring at the lowest proficiency level – particularly black and Hispanic students; these students are making real progress towards becoming proficient … We have much to celebrate today but no time to slow down. I look forward to working together with students, families and educators to build on these essential accomplishments.”

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers:

“I want to thank the teachers, students and parents for all their hard work. With a common sense approach to education, we are seeing results. We know test scores are just one indicator of all the great work going on in our public schools. There is still more to do, but we are moving in the right direction.”

James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center:

“Not only did [charter schools] make tremendous gains over previous years, they are significantly outperforming their district counterparts in both ELA and math. This successful trend continues even as charter schools serve an overwhelmingly low income population, have grown their population of English Language Learners and are now serving comparable numbers of students with special needs.”

Maryanne Kiley, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence-New York, a teachers’ advocacy group:

“Educators have been more involved in this year’s tests than ever before, both in selecting the questions and using the results to inform classroom learning. This year’s proficiency rates show that it pays to involve teachers in the process. But we still have work ahead of us: we must continue to improve assessments and restore the faith of educators and parents. The state assessments have the potential to become tools that allow teachers to ensure that our students get the help they need and that our system is delivering on its promise to students of all racial and income backgrounds. With a new school year approaching, we must work together to make those tools even stronger.”

Stephen Sigmund, executive director of High Achievement New York, which backs the Common Core standards and tests:

“The rise in scores proves that the combination of high standards and aligned assessments are working – students across the state are finally being prepared for 21st century careers and challenges. But it also means that students who opt out are falling further and further behind their peers. As we said in April, opt outs were down across most of New York, and stalled statewide. Now is the time to come together to strengthen the assessments, continue to reduce opt outs, and make sure that every child receives a great education.”

Lisa Rudley, parent and founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, which supports opting out:

“I think it’s sad that this has to be a victory, that parents can’t feel confident in the testing that they’ve been given. I think what [the 21% opt-out rate] says is that parents are still extremely angry and extremely upset about assessments. I just think it’s another indication that this is not going away in New York.”

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