By Patrick Donachie
New York City students showed improved scores in state exams this past year and matched New York State students in English Language Arts (ELA) scores for the first time since standardized testing was instituted for all grades in 2006. City students also showed increased proficiency on math exams, and Queens students matched the upward trends in both categories. The tests were conducted in April for students in grades 3-8.
Overall, English test score proficiency improvements from 2015 were particularly notable in Queens school districts, with many marking proficiency increases of 10 percent or more across demographic and geographical lines.
In District 24, including parts of middle and eastern Queens, ELA scores went up by 7 percent from 2015, while math scores stayed steady with 40 percent considered proficient. District 25, which includes parts of Flushing, Whitestone and College Point, saw a 10 percent increase in ELA scores to 53 percent, while math scores improved one point to 59 percent.
In District 26, which includes Bayside and Douglaston, ELA scores increased by 7 percent to 66 percent, while math scores went from 70 to 71 percent. In District 27, which includes parts of Far Rockaway and Woodhaven, English scores went up 7 points to 37 percent, while math scores decreased by one point to 33 percent, the only percentage decrease on record in the borough.
District 28, which stretches from Forest Hills to South Jamaica, saw an 8 percent ELA increase to 43 percent, while math held steady at 41 percent. In District 29, which includes parts of eastern Queens such as St. Albans and Rosedale, ELA scores jumped 8 points to 33 percent ,while math went up by one to 26 percent. And in District 30, which includes parts of Sunnyside, Astoria and Woodside, English scores jumped 10 points to 44 percent and math scores rose from 42 to 43 percent.
Proficiency is measured as students who score in Level 3 or 4 questions. This year, students did not have a time limit for the first time. Additionally, the tests contained fewer questions. State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia announced that students could complete the exam at their own pace provided they were “working productively” in January. With the release of the test scores, she said that it might be difficult to compare 2016 results to years prior.
“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,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “We have much to celebrate today but no time to slow down.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the head of the New York City Council’s Committee on Education, attributed the increase in proficiency among city students to more robust funding and resources for children enrolled in public schools.
“Our schools continue to move in the right direction,” Dromm said. “These improvements are the result of the city’s considerable investment in public education over the past 2 1/2 years.”
The 63 Renewal schools, which partner with nonprofits to offer additional services, grew faster than other city schools in math, according to the city, though the schools did not improve as rapidly as other city schools in their ELA test scores. English exam proficiency increased at 59 of the 63 schools, while proficiency on the math exams increased at 40 out of the 63 schools.
The state exams were marked by public controversy over parents ‘opting-out’ their students from taking the tests to protest the Common Core standards. Statewide, 21 percent of students opted out, but only 3 percent of students in the city did not take the exams. However, the number of students who opted out increased to 12,999 from 7,904 the year before.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona