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Boro leaders critical of federal test results

While city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein touted the recently released federal math test results as indicating meaningful progress, some Queens legislators said they were disappointed in the data that showed no significant improvement since 2007, the last time the tests were given.

“Both state and national exams are meant to measure the same thing — educational achievement and progress,” said City CouncilmanJohn Liu (D-Flushing), who will become city comptroller Jan. 1. “Stagnant performance levels by kids in the city’s schools on national tests, in stark contrast to vast improvements reported earlier this year on state exams, further impugn the validity of the chancellor’s incessant trumpeting of the city DOE’s progress and claims that thousands more students made academic progress this year.”

Data released from the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam show just 26 percent of the city’s eighth-grade students were meeting standards or better on federal exams — compared to 71 percent of the city’s eighth-graders who performed proficiently on this year’s state math tests. In 2007, 22 percent of the city’s eighth-grade students met federal standards.

About 35 percent of the city’s fourth-grade students met federal standards this year, compared with 34 percent in 2007 and the 85 percent of the city’s fourth-grade students who performed proficiently on state exams this year.

The federal test was given only to students in the fourth- and eighth-grades.

Specific federal data for each borough was unavailable.

Queens students made significant strides on state math tests this year, and an average of 87.2 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 met state standards. This was up 5.5 percentage points from the 81.7 percent in 2008, according to data from the state Department of Education.

Klein cheered the federal results, despite being markedly lower than students’ showings on state tests. The chancellor emphasized the fact that the number of students achieving proficiency had continued to go up since 2003 and 2007 and pointed to the fact that the percentage of pupils who met standards on the fourth-grade test had increased by 14 points since 2003.

The “results reflect what we have seen in the classroom and what we have seen on state tests since Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg took control of the schools — that New York City students are making consistent and meaningful progress thanks to their hard work and the dedication and determination of our educators.”

Klein conceded that city students could fare better on federal standardized exams.

“A lot of work still lies ahead of us,” he said. “The next important step is for New York state to adopt the more rigorous national common core standards so we can help all students reach their potential.”

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said the federal results were disheartening but not unexpected.

“It’s been known for a while that most of the gains the mayor is touting on state tests are really artificial,” Lancman said. “It’s a combination of state tests being dumbed down dramatically and students in the city being relentlessly drilled to just take those tests.”

Lancman backed state DOE Chancellor Merryl Tisch’s support for making the test more difficult and said he hopes the new state exams cover a broader range of topics.

“If the mayor is obsessed with tests, you need to focus on the quality of those tests,” Lancman said.

The federal tests are taken by a sample of city students, and 4,300 fourth- and eighth-grade pupils took the exam this year. The state tests are given to every student from the third- through eighth-grades and state officials, such as Tisch, have said the state tests will be made more difficult.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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