New York City public school students have achieved impressive gains in the state’s standardized math and reading tests, according to the results released on Wednesday. The improvement was especially notable in math, where nearly half of the students met or exceeded the proficiency standards, compared to less than 40% in the previous year. The reading scores also increased slightly, with more than half of the students demonstrating grade-level skills.
Adams and Banks celebrate the results
The positive results came in the first full school year under Mayor Eric Adams and his appointed Schools Chancellor David Banks, who both praised the students and teachers for their hard work and resilience amid the pandemic. Adams, who was on a trip to Central America to address the migrant crisis, said in a statement that he was “incredibly proud” of the progress made by the city’s public schools. He attributed the success to his administration’s focus on equity, innovation, and accountability in education.
Banks, who held a press conference at a Bronx elementary school, said the results were “extremely encouraging” and showed that the city was on the right track in its recovery from the pandemic. He also highlighted the growth in proficiency among historically underserved groups, such as students of color, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities. He said the Education Department’s new initiatives, such as NYC Reads, a phonics-based literacy program, and NYC Math, a curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving and critical thinking, had contributed to the improvement.
A new test aligned to new standards
However, Banks also cautioned that the results were not directly comparable to those of the previous year, as the state had implemented a new test aligned to new standards. The new test was shorter and administered online, and it also had different cut scores for determining proficiency levels. The state education officials said the new test was more rigorous and reflected the expectations of college and career readiness.
The state also made the test optional for students because of the pandemic, which resulted in a lower participation rate than usual. Only about 60% of eligible students in grades 3 to 8 took the test this year, compared to about 90% in 2019, the last time the test was administered before the pandemic. The state did not release any data on how many students opted out of the test or why.
A mixed picture across the state
The statewide results showed a similar pattern as the city’s, with an increase in math scores and a slight increase in reading scores. However, there were significant variations across different regions and districts. Some suburban and rural districts saw declines in both subjects, while some urban districts saw gains in both or one of them. The state education commissioner, Betty Rosa, said the results should be interpreted with caution and used as a baseline for future assessments.
The results also revealed persistent achievement gaps among different groups of students across the state. White and Asian students outperformed Black and Hispanic students in both subjects, and students from low-income families performed worse than those from higher-income families. English language learners and students with disabilities also lagged behind their peers in both subjects.
A call for more resources and support
The release of the test results coincided with a lawsuit filed by a coalition of parents and advocacy groups against the state, alleging that it had failed to provide adequate funding and resources for public schools, especially those serving high-needs students. The lawsuit claimed that the state owed more than $4 billion to schools under a 2007 court ruling that required it to ensure every student had access to a sound basic education.
The plaintiffs said the pandemic had exacerbated the existing inequities and disparities in education, and called for more investment and support for schools to address the learning loss and trauma caused by COVID-19. They also demanded more transparency and accountability from the state on how it distributes and monitors school funding.
The state education department said it was committed to providing equitable and quality education for all students, and that it had allocated more than $12 billion in federal relief funds to schools to help them recover from the pandemic. It also said it was working on revising its accountability system and developing new assessments that would better measure student learning and growth.