Achievement Gap For NYC Black, Hispanic Students Widens

In New York City, dozens of public schools did not have a single African-American or Hispanic student who passed this year's math or reading exams, according to a new report.

Families for Excellent Schools, a group which supports charter schools, found that the standardized tests, which are based on the more rigorous Common Core standards, were not passed by any Hispanic or black students at 90 schools in the city with student bodies of diverse nationalities and races. Stephen Rex Brown and Ben Chapman, writing for the New York Daily News, quote Families for Excellent Schools CEO Jeremiah Kittredge:

"It's time for bold and transformational change," said Kittredge. "We need to acknowledge that this is not the fault of children — it's the fault of our system."

Black and Hispanic students actually did earn better scores this year compared to 2013 but the achievement gap was worse, while white and Asian students saw larger increases.

Across the city, 18.5% of black students and 23.2% of Hispanic students received a proficient rating on math exams for 2014 while the overall proficiency rate was 34.2%. The same gap was seen in reading scores.

The schools where no minority students passed were varied. Public School 144 in Belle Harbor, Queens is something of a high-performing school with relatively few black and Hispanic children. Struggling schools were hard-pressed to have any passing kids at all.

Education Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said: "We are committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of ethnicity or background, receive a high-quality education."

New York City students in third through eighth grades made strides in catching up to the state's passing grades in this second year of Common Core tests, according to the state Education Department. In math, proficiency rose to 34.5% from 30.1% last year. The number of students who passed in English were 29.4% from 27.4% in the last school year.

Leslie Brody of The Wall Street Journal writes that because the city has a larger number of students living in poverty than the rest of the state overall, educators and advocates are calling the jump significant. For the entire state, 35.8% passed in math and 31.4% passed in language arts.

Advocates say the new tests require more analysis and complex thinking. Although the drop in scores last year, the first year of the Common Core tests, is understandable, many parents and educators said teachers had not been trained properly and had too few textbooks to teach Common Core standards.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has softened the blow connected to the failures, when, in June, he agreed to a two-year "safety net" so that teachers cannot be dismissed due to poor evaluations tied to the students' scores.

Members of the New York State Allies for Public Education are not impressed with the quality of the tests, nor do they believe in the accuracy of the scores.

Families for Excellent Schools has also just released information concerning the status of public education in New York City, which they call devastating in a paper called "The Forgotten Fourth" — because their analysis shows one-fourth of all schools in the city are failing.

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