Let’s take a look at the record: Buried under all the confusion, there was some intriguing information in this morning’s report about New York City’s new test scores.
On their face, the passing rates for New York City didn’t look bad when compared with scores from around the state:
HERNANDEZ AND GEBELOFF (8/8/13): Even with the drop in scores, New York City still outperformed the state’s other large school districts—in Rochester, for example, only 5 percent of students passed in reading and math. And despite its large number of disadvantaged students, New York City almost matched the state’s performance as a whole.In New York City, 26 percent passed the reading tests, 30 percent passed in math. Statewide, the numbers were barely better. Statewide, 31 percent passed math, the same number passed reading.
These statistics can’t give a full picture. But the passing rates for the city were quite close to those for the state.
This raises a question. What kind of progress has occurred under the billionaire mayor? Despite the confusion sown by the Times, the current tests can’t be used to make that determination, since this is the first year these tests have been given.
But as Kevin Drum noted a few days ago, there is a way to get a rough idea of the amount of progress under Bloomberg. You can look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the widely-praised “gold standard” of educational testing.
In his post, Drum gave Bloomberg a mediocre grade, looking at changes in test scores from 2003 to 2011. That said, we’re a tiny bit queasy about Drum’s method, in two different ways:
First, Drum compared Gotham’s gains to those for “Large Cities.” There’s nothing gigantically wrong with that, but the NAEP includes some fairly small cities in that category. Apples and kumquats alert!
Second, New York was starting with higher scores than some other big cities. It’s worth remembering a point like that when we make such comparisons.
(Also: No disaggregation!)
That said, let’s supplement Drum’s comparisons with a narrower set. Let’s compare score gains by black kids over that period in eight large cities which were already taking full part in the NAEP in 2003.
In eighth grade math, the score gains look like this:
Score gains, Grade 8 math, 2003-2011, black studentsLos Angeles gained more than New York, but New York was still 17 points ahead in average score. It was still ahead of Atlanta and Chicago, but only by very small margins. And by the way:
Atlanta: 21 points
Boston: 21 points
Chicago: 15 points
Cleveland: No change
Houston: 11 points
Los Angeles: 12 points
New York: 9 points
San Diego: 5 points
By a very rough rule of them, ten points on the NAEP scale is often compared to one academic year. By that measure, all these cities, except Cleveland and maybe San Diego, are showing large gains.
This is the way it looks for eighth grade reading. Warning! Gains will be smaller:
Score gains, Grade 8 reading, 2003-2011, black studentsHere are the score gains for fourth graders:
Atlanta: 12 points
Boston: 2 points
Chicago: 2 points
Cleveland: -4 points
Houston: 3 points
Los Angeles: 10 points
New York: 4 points
San Diego: 3 points
Score gains, Grade 4 math, 2003-2011, black studentsNew York’s gains were smaller than some. Their average scores are still higher than most. If that rough rule of thumb can be trusted, progress is being made in these major cities, in math more so than in reading.
Atlanta: 10 points
Boston: 14 points
Chicago: 10 points
Cleveland: 1 point
Houston: 7 points
Los Angeles: 8 points
New York: 7 points
San Diego: 10 points
Score gains, Grade 4 reading, 2003-2011, black students
Atlanta: 12 points
Boston: 9 points
Chicago: 3 points
Cleveland: -4 points
Houston: 5 points
Los Angeles: 9 points
New York: 8 points
San Diego: 9 points
Final point, once again: Passing rates on New York’s new statewide tests can’t be meaningfully compared to passing rates on last year’s tests. Everyone on the planet gets that, except for people within the reach of the Times Confusion Machine.
To use the NAEP Data Explorer: Click here, then click on MAIN NDE. From there, you're on your own.