New York City Test Scores Improve, But Opt Outs Hold Strong

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

The latest standardized test score results show that students in New York City have made significant gains on state reading and math exams for 2016.

Results show that 38% of NYC students between grades three and eight met state reading standards in 2016, an increase from the 30.4% who did so in 2015.  Math test results show an increase from the 35.2% who passed in 2015 up to 36.4% this year.

In a statement, Mayor de Blasio noted how proud he was of the gains made by students throughout the city on the tests, which are used to make decisions concerning the promotion of students, evaluation of teachers, and creation of various policy.

“Our public schools are a cornerstone of New York City,” de Blasio said. “These results represent important progress and outline real improvements across each borough.”

While the city previously trailed behind the rest of the state on test results, this year NYC students performed slightly better than the state average on reading tests.  This is the first time that New York City has outperformed the rest of the state in either math or reading tests since being linked to the Common Core standards in 2013, writes Ben Chapman for The Daily News.

Across the state, 37.9% of children met reading standards in 2016 in comparison to the 31.3% who did so in 2015.  Meanwhile, 38.1% passed math tests in 2015, which increased to 39.1% this year.

However, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia noted that the tests underwent numerous changes in 2016.  Elia said that due to this, not much information can be gathered from yearly comparisons, writes Elizabeth Harris for The New York Times.

The tests were shortened in 2016 and time limits were done away with after opposition to the difficulty level of the state became widespread in 2015.  Elia said that both of these factors could have led to the increase in test scores.

“Because of the changes in testing, it’s not exactly a perfect comparison,” Elia said. “And even with the increases this year, there remains much work to be done.”

At the same time, the number of students across the state who refused to take the exam increased this year, with more than one in five not participating.

Across the state, 21% of students opted out of the tests in 2016, a slight increase from 2015.  Meanwhile, 3% of city students were found to have skipped the exams via absence this year, up from around 2% in 2015.

This year is the third consecutive year that parent groups have organized a testing opt-out movement due to concerns over the high-stakes linked to the exam and the tougher Common Core standards the tests are now based on, writes Jon Campbell for Lohud.

Looking at gains made by black and Hispanic students, black students who met reading standards increased from 19% in 2015 to 26.6% this year.  Hispanic students also made gains in reading, going from 19.8% to 27.2%.  However, an achievement gap still exists as these students try to keep up with citywide improvements.

Charter school students were found to outperform traditional public school students in both reading and math tests in 2016.  Charter school students who passed the reading exam went from 29.3% last year to 43% in 2016, while math scores rose from 44.2% to 48.7%.