By Jyoti Thottam
Queens elementary school students' reading scores jumped but math scores fell in 1999 compared to 1998, figures released by the Board of Education showed last week.
The scores, included in the “school report cards” for every school and every district in the city, reflect both changes in standardized testing and the city's emphasis on reading over the last few years, educators said. The results were consistent with those citywide for reading, but in other districts the declines in math were more severe.
“They implemented a new testing formula for both the reading and the math,” said John Ciafone, a member of School Board 30, which includes Astoria, Long Island City and Jackson Heights. “That probably is accounting for it.”
The tests were administrated last spring to students in third, fifth sixth and seventh grades.
The scores on the citywide reading and math tests will also play a role in determining which students must attend summer school this year. District-by-district scores were consistent with past performance in the borough, with northeast Queens at the top.
District 26, which includes Bayside, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Bellerose and parts of Fresh Meadows, was the top-performing district in New York City. About 81 percent of students taking the test last year met the standards for passing, up from 76 percent in 1998.
District 25 scored a distant second in the borough, with 65 percent of students passing the reading test in 1999, up from 57 percent a year earlier. The district includes Flushing, College Point, Whitestone and part of Fresh Meadows.
District 28, which includes Forest Hills and parts of Jamaica, was not far behind, with 55 percent of the students meeting the reading standards in 1999.
In District 30, 52 percent of the students passed the reading tests, up from 47 percent in 1998. District 24 and District 29 scored almost identically on the 1999 reading tests, with about 50 percent of students passing. District 24 covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Elmhurst and Corona; while District 29 includes Jamaica, Queens Village, St. Albans and Laurelton.
Scoring last in the borough was District 27, where 45 percent of the students passed the reading test in 1999. The district serves Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and the Rockaways.
The districts in Queens ranked in the same order for the math portion of the tests, but every district scored lower in 1998 compared to the year before. The declines pushed three districts in Queens below the 50-percent mark for meeting the city standards in math.
The decline in math scores may have been rooted in teacher preparation for the new testing standards, Ciafone said. Each district has staff in charge of training teachers on how to adapt their curricula to the new tests.
“Some kind of breakdown occurred,” he said. “Usually our math scores are better than our reading scores. We have a lot of immigrant children, and they come from countries where math is pushed more.”
Interim Schools Chancellor Harold Levy agreed that teachers were the key to improving test scores citywide.
“Until this system can provide students with a longer instructional program and more certified teachers, our school report cards will continue to paint a disappointing portrait,” Levy said in a statement. “The efforts we are making now to improve student outcomes, such as the remedial program this July and the teacher recruitment initiatives, are at best first steps toward getting all of our youngsters up to standards.”
District 29 experienced the largest drop in math scores, falling by 13 percentage points. About 46 percent of students in the district passed the math test in 1999, compared to 59 percent in 1998. Levy recently suspended the school board for that troubled district and appointed three trustees in their place to choose a new superintendent for the district.
“There has always been an emphasis on reading rather than math,” said Clifton Stanley-Diaz, a member of School Board 29.
He advocated more funding for math tutorials similar to Project READ, an after-school tutorial program for reading.
District 26, the city's highest scoring district in math as well as reading, fell only 4.2 percentage points to 85.3 percent of students passing in 1999. In District 25, 71.1 percent of students passed the math test, down 5.9 points from a year earlier.
The remaining districts had similar declines. District 24 scores dropped 7.1 points to 49.3 percent of students passing; District 27 scores fell 8.4 points to 45.5 percent; and District 28 declined 8.4 points to 55.8 percent.