images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,
Earlier this week, the State Education Department released the results of the 2017 Grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and mathematics tests. Overall, there was a modest improvement in scores statewide, which means we're moving in the right direction. In ELA this year, the percentage of students in grades 3-8 who scored at the proficient level (Levels 3 and 4) increased by 1.9 percentage points to 39.8, up from 37.9 in 2016. In math, the percentage of students who scored at the proficient level increased this year to 40.2, up 1.1 percentage point from 39.1 in 2016.
This progress is a result of the hard work and dedication of our teachers, students, and parents. Thank you for all you do.
The achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers also narrowed slightly statewide for both ELA and math. For ELA, black students saw a 2.8-percentage-point increase in those achieving proficiency while Hispanic students experienced a 2.4-percentage-point increase. In both cases, the increases were greater than those seen by white students, who saw a 1.1-percentage-point increase statewide.
Math scores tell a similar story with increases made by black and Hispanic students outpacing those made by white students. Proficiency rates in math for black and Hispanic students went up by 1.4 and 1.3 percentages points, respectively, while proficiency rates for white students increased by only 0.4 percentage points. While these improvements are encouraging, we know there is still more work to be done to close these gaps.
Every Big 5 City made progress this year, with New York City's ELA proficiency rate (40.6) now slightly exceeding the statewide rate (39.8). Of the Big 5, Yonkers made the biggest gains in proficiency in ELA and math, with a 3.6-percentage-point increase in ELA and a 3.7-percentage-point increase in math.
Charter schools and students who received ELL services prior to, but not during, the 2016-17 school year ("Ever ELLs") had some of the largest gains in proficiency this year. ELA proficiency rates for Ever ELLs rose 5.5 percentage points to 45.2 percent, more than 5 points higher than the statewide rate. In math, Ever ELL proficiency increased by 3.2 percentage points to 46.8 percent, nearly 7 points higher than the statewide rate. Statewide proficiency rates for charter schools in ELA and math are now 45-percent and 48.2-percent, respectively, also above the statewide rates. 
Overall, this news is promising - our students are moving in the right direction. However, black and Hispanic student scores still trail those of white and Asian students, and the ELA and math proficiency rates for English Language Learners and students with disabilities, while up, are still far too low. Our work to diminish these troubling gaps will continue by expanding prevention, early warning, and intervention programs through My Brother's Keeper; implementation of the state's ESSA plan; and our equity initiative.
Still, it is clear we must do more. It is also clear that test results don't give us the complete picture of how well our schools are doing. For that reason, our draft ESSA plan takes a more holistic approach to accountability and considers multiple measures of school and student success, not just test results. We developed our draft plan in a way that was deliberate, inclusive, and transparent, and we took the same approach in making changes to our standards and assessments.
The press release about the 2017 results has more information, including data on 2017 test refusals, which dropped by 2 percentage points. Additionally, a video of me discussing the results  is available as well as district- and school-level results .
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer vacation. Savor the remaining days as much as possible because the first day of school will be here very soon.
As always, thank you for reading.


MaryEllen Elia