Yesterday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the
results of the 2019 Grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and mathematics tests
. In ELA, 45.4 percent of all test takers in grades 3-8 scored at the proficient level (Levels 3 and 4) an increase of 0.2 percentage points from 2018. In math, 46.7 percent of all test takers in grades 3-8 scored at the proficient level, up 2.2 percentage points from 44.5 in 2018. The state did not make significant changes to the 2019 assessments; therefore the 2019 results can be compared with the 2018 results.
This year, the achievement gap among black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaskan Native students' proficiency continued to narrow slightly when compared with their white peers; however, significant gaps remain.
In ELA, the gap between black students and their white peers narrowed by 1.4 percentage points from 2018 to 2019; the gap between Hispanic and white students and American Indian/Alaskan Native and white students each narrowed by 1.2 percentage points in that same period.
In math, the gap between black students and their white peers and Hispanic and white students each narrowed by 1.5 percentage points from 2018 to 2019; the gap between American Indian/Alaskan Native and white students narrowed by 2.4 percentage points in that same period.
Of the Big 5 city school districts, New York City continues to have the highest percentage of students proficient in both ELA and math, with Yonkers having the second highest in each. In ELA in 2019, New York City exceeded the statewide proficiency rate by 2 percent, with 47.4 of students achieving proficiency, compared with 45.4 percent statewide. In math, 45.6 percent of New York City students scored at the proficient level, compared with 46.7 percent statewide.
In 2019, "Ever ELLs" (that is, students who were identified as English Language Learners (ELLs) and received ELL services prior to, but not during, the 2018-19 school year) achieved proficiency on the ELA exam at higher levels than the total test-taking population, with Ever ELLs achieving proficiency at a rate of 55.0 percent, compared with 45.4 percent statewide. In math, Ever ELLs achieved proficiency at higher levels than the total test-taking population, with Ever ELLs achieving proficiency at a rate of 57.8 percent, compared with 46.7 percent for the total test-taking population.
Across the state in 2019, 13.9 percent of students with disabilities scored at the proficient level in ELA and 16.2 scored proficient in math. Performance of students with disabilities on the state assessments continues to be significantly lower than the performance of general education students.
NYSED has placed a renewed focus on districts that have not met Individuals with Disabilities Act requirements for eight or more consecutive years. There are 12 such districts in the State, including NYC. For each district, an improvement and monitoring plan will be developed to ensure students with disabilities and their parents have the supports necessary to help diminish the achievement gap. This includes districts providing supports and intervention services to address individual student needs and full access to programs to help these students to graduate.
In 2019, statewide charter school proficiency rates were higher than total public school proficiency rates in both ELA and math. In ELA, the statewide charter school proficiency rate was 54.0 percent, compared with total public school rate of 45.4 percent. In math, the statewide charter school proficiency rate was 58.9 percent, compared with a total statewide public school rate of 46.7 percent.
I'm proud of the progress we have made in terms of reducing gaps in student achievement during my tenure with NYSED, but we know there is more work to be done. The Board of Regents and NYSED continue to focus on gap-closing initiatives, including the expansion of prevention, early warning, and intervention programs through My Brother's Keeper; implementing the State's ESSA plan; placing emphasis on the importance of early learning; expanding opportunities for parent and family engagement; and focusing on educating the whole child through social emotional learning, culturally responsive-sustaining education and school climate initiatives.
As I've consistently said, assessments are a part of the larger picture that we look at when we examine performance levels across the state. Our ESSA plan seeks to improve equity by giving students and schools multiple ways to demonstrate success, not just test results. Other strategies in ESSA to foster equity include:
- Addressing disparities in training for teachers to help them be effective in the classroom;
- Providing students more access to rigorous high school coursework;
- Making schools equally welcoming environments for all students;
- Increasing fiscal transparency in school building spending;
- Placing emphasis on importance of early learning as a strategy for lifelong academic and social emotional success;
- Expanding opportunities for parent and family engagement; and
- Using multiple measures to allow students to demonstrate proficiency in state learning standards.
New York State is committed to ensuring that all students succeed and thrive in school no matter who they are, where they live, where they go to school, or where they come from. This year's test scores are a positive sign that we are making progress, and I believe the deliberative and thoughtful approach outlined in our State's ESSA plan will continue to benefit the students of New York State.
Our teachers, parents, and students should be proud of the hard work they put in every day. We all must continue working to keep our students on a path to success and to promote equity in education for all.
As I mentioned in a previous letter, I will leave the State Education Department at the end of this month, so this will be my last letter to you as New York State Education Commissioner. I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve New York's students, schools, and communities over the past four years. I am also truly grateful for the partnership that I developed with Kyle Belokopitsky and her team at New York State PTA. Their tireless efforts, day in and day out, make a real difference for the children of New York State.
Parent voice in our school communities is so important, and one of the highlights of my tenure has been meeting you, the parents, who provide immeasurable support for schools and children by donating time and resources to create nurturing school communities. Your steadfast and unwavering commitment to providing the best education for your children - and all children - gives me great hope for the future of education in New York State.
I know the Board of Regents and the State Education Department will continue their work to promote educational equity and ensure that all students succeed and thrive in school no matter who they are, where they live, where they go to school, or where they come from.
Thank you again for everything you do. I hope you enjoy the remaining days of summer.