2005-09-29 / From The Mayor...

Fourth Grade Math Scores — Something We Can All Be Proud Of From The Mayor’s Desk ...

After years of stagnation, our public schools are on the move. You can see that in the climbing graduation rate, in the way we’ve improved school safety, in the new efficiency and lower costs of building and repairing our schools, and in the record-low number of schools whose performance is under review by State education authorities.

But by far the best news about our schools is the dramatic rise in test scores. Last week, we got the results of the statewide math exams that 4th and 8th graders took last spring. Our 4th graders gave us all a lot to be proud of: More than 77 percent of them scored at or above grade level on that exam. That was the first time since State testing began in 1999 that more than three-fourths of City public school students in any grade scored at or above grade level standards. Our 4th grade math scores rose more than 9 percentage points — much better than the increase in 4th grade math scores state-wide, or in the state’s other large cities.

The test scores also showed that Black and Hispanic 4th graders took big strides toward closing the achievement gap in classrooms across the city. There was an 11.5 percentage point increase in Black 4th graders who scored at or above grade level on the math test, and a more than 10 percentage point increase among Hispanic students. That was more than twice the rate at which White and Asian 4th graders improved their scores — a trend that gives us a lot of hope for the future of all our students.

Scores on the 8th grade math test were not as encouraging. In fact, these latest scores mirror the trends we saw in the State 4th and 8th grade reading tests, the results of which came in back in May. On both tests, there were big improvements in the 4th grade, and drop- offs in 8th grade performance. That tells us two things. First, when we ended social promotion in the 3rd grade, and gave extra attention to students who were at risk of being held back, we made the right decision. We’re seeing the payoff now in these great 4th grade scores. And second, we were also right to end social promotion in the 7th grade this school year. Because we’re now enforcing standards — and be-cause now we’re also giving struggling middle school students the kind of extra help they need in the classrooms — 8th grade test scores are going to start to improve, too.

These State math scores wrap up the results of all the City and State reading and math tests our elementary and middle school students took last spring. That means we’ve now got a clear picture of just how far we’ve come since we began reforming our schools about three years ago. Before then, just over a third of students in grades 3 through 8 were working at or above grade level in math — something that had re-mained essentially unchanged for years. Since then, the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level has climbed to nearly 53 percent. Reading test scores tell the same story, with the percentage of 3rd through 8th grade students at or above grade level rising from 39% in 2002 to nearly 52 percent today. Clearly, we’ve still got a long way to go. But just as clearly, we’re headed in the right direction. The era of year in, year out stagnation in our schools is over.

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