Bloomberg's Big Boast

TO: NYC Schools Chancellor, NYC Panel for Educational Policy and NYC Council Education Committee
FROM: Elizabeth Carson
SUBJECT: Bloomberg's Big Boast
SENT: Oct 11, 2004

(edited Nov 2004)

Last year (2003-2004) was the first year a portion of city schools began use of the mayor's universal math programs: Everyday Math, (K-5) Impact Math (6-8) and New York Math A (high school)

The 2003 scores predate the mayor's reforms. The 2004 scores reflect a combination of old and partly implemented new reforms.

Adoption of the citywide math programs is not complete even this year, and there are hundreds of schools exempted from mandated adoption of the programs entirely. Implementation of the Chancellor's new math programs began last year (2003-2004) in some schools, and has just begun this year (2004-2005) in others. Some schools chose to stagger the implementation over two years; for example, EM may be implemented in K-3 the first year, with grades 4 and 5 added in the second year. A number of schools this year have just begun EM in the lower grades, K-3. The schedule of math program adoptions for each school in NYC has not been made public.

A significant number of schools are exempted from adoption of the mandated math programs, and are instead using an array of other programs. A full accounting of the various alternative programs in use in each waivered school is unknown. The exact number and identity of the waivered schools is unknown The number of waivered schools is estimated to be near 250. There are 600+ elementary schools in NYC.

This year, NYC state 4th grade scores were flat over last year, showing a very slight rise of 1.4% pts. (statewide scores remained flat as well, showing a 1% point rise). The leveling off in year to year achievement improvement in the fourth grade, in the first year of Bloomberg's math reforms is striking, and especially when compared with the large 14.7% point rise in math scores in 2003, one year before Bloomberg's math reforms were begun In 2004, 68.1% of NYC 4th graders met standards. In 2003 66.7% met standards.

This year, NYC 8th grade math scores rose 8% points to 42.4% passing ( across the state, 8th grade scores rose 6.7% points) In 2003, NYC 8th grade math scores rose 4.6% points over 2002. In 2004, 42.4% of NYC 8th graders met standards. In 2003 34.4% met standards.

Overall, in 2004, NYC combined math scores for grades 3-8, on two different tests - a city exam given in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7, and a state exam given in grades 4 and 8 - achievement rose 4.8% points. In 2004, 46.7% of NYC students passed the math exams given in grades 3-8 In 2003, 41.9% of NYC students met the math standards in grades 3-8. From 1999 - 2004, NYC scores on the city math exam have risen 10.6 % points. In 1999 31.9% of students passed the city math exam In 2004 42.5% of NYC students passed the city math exam Over half of NYC students in grades 3,5,6 and 7 are still failing math.

Bloomberg's current big boast is focused on gains on the state exams, greater than NYS's.However, the difference in gains (NYC vs NYS) is in fact small, and in fact the other big five cities showed greater gains in the 4th grade> also, the large NYC vs NYS achievement gap remains

NYC showed a less than 1% point greater gain over NY gains on the 4th grade test. NYC 4th grade scores rose 1.4%. to 68.1% passing. NYS scores rose 1% to 79.1% passing. In 8th grade, NYC gains were 1.3% points greater than NYS gains. NYC 8th grade scores rose 8% pts to 42.4% passing, while NYS scores rose 6.7% points to 57.7% passing.

The other four of the "Big Five " (Big Five: NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) showed greater improvement in 4th grade than NYC. The other big five 4th grade scores rose 3.8% pts to 66.1% passing. In 8th grade, however, NYC score improvements (an 8% pt rise) did outpace sister cities' scores which rose 5% points to 28.7% passing.

In 2004, all the big five city's 4th grade math scores trail NYS's, showing a greater than 10% point gap. Notably, however, since 1999, the gap between the big five and the state average has closed considerably in the 4th grade. The big five cities show an approximately 18% point score improvement, while the overall state scores have risen approximately 12% points since 1999 In 2004: NYC 4th grade: 68.1% passing; NYS 4th grade: 79.1% passing; other big five in 4th grade: 66.1& passing.

In 2004, all of the big five city's 8th grade math scores trail the NYS average. NYC and NYS 8th grade gains and correlate achievement gap have remained constant. NYC and NYS 8th grade scores have risen approximately 20% pts since 1999. In years1999-2004 the NYC vs NYS score gap hovered around 16 % points. In 2004: NYC 8th grade: 42.4% passing; NYS 8th grade: 67.7% passing. The other big five 8th grade scores have not improved at a similar pace with NYC or NYS. Since 1999 the other big five scores have risen approximately 12% points. The achievement gap between the other big five and NYS has risen from a 21% gap in 1999 to a 29% pt gap in 2004. In 2004, 28.7% of students in the other big five passed the 8th grade math test.

I can't get excited about NYC score improvements so similar to state trends

Klein's press release does not mention the fact that NYC achievement gains follow a state trend, or the fact that this year's fourth grade gains are a disappointment over the huge improvement in 4th grade scores last year, or the fact that the other big five cities in fact showed greater 4th grade gains this year than in NYC.

When additional relevant information is added to the DOE press release, it becomes evident that there is very little evidence to support the Mayor and Chancellor's claims to test scores as evidence the Children First reforms are a success.

More importantly, many math experts, classroom teachers and parents have serious concerns with the integrity of both the city and state math tests to begin with, and this added to the fact that the scores alone tell us so little about the quality and sources of students' educational experiences, make the test score discussion profoundly hollow and unsatisfying.


NYC DOE Division of Assessment and Accountability
NYS DOE Division of Assessment
NYC DOE Office of Media Relations

Elizabeth Carson

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