While the poorest students in New York City schools have made significant gains in their test scores under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure, scores for middle-income city students have failed to improve, writes Rachel Monahan at the New York Daily News.
Roughly 20% of the city's students fall under the category of middle income. And the 8th grade reading scores, 4th grade reading and 4th and 8th grade math showed no significant gains in test scores despite a nationwide trend of scores going up.
"Bloomberg put a lot of emphasis on the very poorest kids. Whatever gains were there were offset by what was going on in other neighborhoods.
"There has been this intense focus on the poorest schools."
34% of the city's middle-income 8th graders scored proficient or better on the reading test last year, compared to 48% in 2003. In large cities around the country, the number of middle-income 8th graders passing the reading exams rose from 31% to 40%.
Michael Petrilli of the D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes schools are no longer required to focus on kids in the middle or at the top, who tend to be more affluent than the lower performers.
"All of the incentives right now, built into the accountability systems at the local, state and national levels, are about getting fairly low-achieving kids over a fairly low bar."
However, city officials make no apology for concentrating on the plight of the neediest students. They point out that low-income students in the city rank in the top five large cities on all the exams given, writes Monahan.
The city Education Department's chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said:
"The way to address performance among other income groups — and to move the needle across all our schools — is to begin teaching and requiring more complex skills, which is at the heart of our work around literacy and the Common Core standards."
Despite some rises and falls in certain areas of the test score results, the city's overall results haven't budged since 2009 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.