Federal test results mixed for NYC students

December 8, 2009 5:34:02 PM PST
New York City's fourth and eighth graders showed little improvement on federal math exams this year than in 2007, according to test scores released on Tuesday. The results are a sharp contrast from their performance on state-administered tests.

At a news conference armed with charts and graphs and explanations, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and his team gave their interpretation to the city's math scores on the National Achievement Test.

"Between 2003 and 2009, we've out performed the nation and we've dramatically outperformed New York State," Klein said.

The national test, or NAEP, as it's called, is a small sampling of test scores in each school district in New York, about 22-hundred students. It is not administered every year.

Between 2003 and 2009, there was significant improvement in math, especially among 4th graders.

But upon closer look, between 2007 and 2009, there was what's called "no significant gain."

"It's a kind of sobering message to take alongside of the more positive message that the Department of Education wants to promote based on the state exams," said Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia Teachers College.

On state exams, almost three-quarters of the city's eighth graders met state standards this year. On the federal exams, just 26 percent were considered proficient or better.

Critics say the NAEP test covers more subject matter and is simply a better test. Chancellor Klein says the difference is all in the way the test is given.

"When you don't test everyone, you can't ever have precise numbers," he said.

All sides agree state standards should be higher, and New York State education officials have promised higher test standards for the future.