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Against a muted response to the year’s test scores, New York’s charter sector stands out

New York City students outperformed the state average on this year’s reading tests, but with consequences for low scores receding and year-over-year comparisons off the table because of changes to the test, reactions to the news have been muted.

One notable exception: The city’s charter sector, which far outscored the rest of the city on both reading and math at a moment when lawmakers’ support is far from assured, quickly touted its performance. Other groups pointed out that deep disparities in the scores of different kinds of students remain. And some advocates suggested that they were just happy that more students sat for the tests at all instead of opting out.

Here’s what we’re hearing. We’ll update with reactions as they come in.

Charter advocates took the opportunity to tout their sector’s performance.

“Today, it’s more clear than ever why so many New York City families have chosen to send their children to charter schools. The city’s charter schools continue to deliver extraordinary results for disadvantaged students and have eliminated the achievement gap that otherwise persists across the city and the state. Progress is taking place across the board—for African American, Latino and low income students, as well English language learners and students with special needs. This was the goal when charters first opened 20 years ago and remains the goal today.” — James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center

“The 2018 test score results for math and ELA make it clear the comparison between charter schools on average and the state average isn’t even close — which is significant because the state average includes incredibly well-resourced, low-need districts. The data reaffirm what an estimated 150,000 students and their families already know: charter schools work relentlessly to support high achievement.” — Empire Charter Consultants, a new national group working to support charter school growth:

Some charter advocates alluded to looming policy battles ahead …

“Year after year, these assessment results show that the expertise in closing the achievement gap is found abundantly in the city’s charter sector. While Mayor de Blasio boasts he ‘came into office to shake the foundation of the system’ in reality, the city is just changing who gets to go to the schools it thinks are good. None of the City’s strategies increase the number of quality seats. The only people focused on that are the city’s charter school operators who are ready, willing, and able to open more schools if the cap is lifted.

If combined into a district, New York City charter schools are larger than the Big Four school district combined and perform three times as well. I hope charter critics won’t dismiss these results and will instead seek to replicate and scale them.” — StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis

… while others focused on what their own schools are doing well.

“Children from all backgrounds can achieve exceptional results when given access to great schools. When you focus on the whole child, you develop a passion for excellence, whether it’s in the classroom, on the soccer field, or at chess and debate tournaments.” — Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy, where 91 percent of students were proficient in reading and 98 were proficient in math

Others called attention to deep disparities reflected in the scores.

“It is always positive to see scores improve, but the fact is we cannot be sure what these changes mean because of the recent changes to the test. These scores could be more meaningful if we stopped playing politics and provide consistency in assessments and evaluation. We must embrace educator-driven reforms that ensure quality data is being collected and shared in a timely manner that allows educators to measure achievement and improvement from year to year.

“What we do know for sure is that we still have significant work to do to close the persistent opportunity gaps that exist for low-income students and students of color. For the commitment to equity and excellence to become a reality we need to continue working to elevate the teaching profession, create safe and supportive learning environments where all students are welcome, and fully implement New York’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.” — Evan Stone, a co-founder and CEO of Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher advocacy group

“In reviewing the test scores for New York City students, we are concerned about the persistent gaps that exist for students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs).  Teaching students to read is one of the most fundamental tasks of schools. We are disappointed to see a 40 point gap in reading scores between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers and a 40 point gap in reading scores between ELLs and students who were never ELLs.  With the vast majority of ELLs and students with disabilities failing to score proficiently in reading, the City must do more to support these students and ensure that they receive high-quality, evidence-based instruction that targets their individual needs.” — Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York

And some were just happy that New York students took the tests at all.

“The combination of high standards and aligned assessments is creating real progress in classrooms across New York. What’s more, the state’s recent reforms to the assessments, from shortening the assessment period to having New York teachers help write the actual tests, are working – with student proficiency levels improving and achievement gaps in communities of color shrinking. And as a testament to buy in across the state, this year marks another year of increasing overall participation in the assessments, meaning that teachers and educators have more and more information to build lesson plans and structure classroom time. While teachers and students still have a lot of work ahead of them, today’s strong results mean we are another step closer to our ultimate goal: ensuring that every child in New York, no matter where he or she grows up, has access to a great education.” — Brian Fritsch, executive director of High Achievement New York, a coalition formed to generate public support for the state’s testing program