Contact: Jeffrey N. Maclin
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New York released data today on the test scores of this year’s public school students, which, as expected, showed sharp declines in proficiency. The discussion of these developments will largely center on the use of significantly harder exams in place this year, which now reflect usage of the Common Core Standards Initiative, a national effort to codify what students should know and be able to perform at each level of schooling. Debate about the Common Core is surely important, as parents, students, and policymakers should have a substantive discussion about the value of high-stakes testing, and how much a focus on assessment in our schools can truly make a difference in the outcomes of young people in our city.
The test results come as New Yorkers reflect on 12 years of education policy under the Bloomberg administration. Regardless of the assessments we choose to use – be they linked to the Common Core or not – we have seen some clear improvements in the public schools system. At the same time, some major gaps remain.
One of the most noticeable areas of improvement has been in expanding career and technical education (CTE) programs in public high schools. CTE schools are not only offering more students real skills with which to gain employment, but an understanding of career pathways and how higher education will have a tangible impact on their lives. We are also pleased with the expansion of programs serving older youth at risk of dropping out – known as multiple pathways to graduation. With more than 180,000 disconnected youth in New York City who are between 18 and 24 (not in school or working), it’s imperative that we double-down on our efforts to help young people obtain their high school diploma, learn a skill that is necessary in this economy, and then pursue work that will create a foundation of economic mobility.
But there is much more to do in the next administration. The achievement gap between New York City’s students of different incomes remains far too great. Too many students from low-income families, who are largely black and Latino, still lag behind in schools without the resources to help them succeed. Despite the debates about testing and teachers, the greatest predictor of a student’s performance remains their household income, and we need to do more to ensure that poor communities have the resources to help their children succeed. This means many more early education slots, ensuring that our children graduate with the skills and competencies necessary to get a job or succeed in college, and expanding access for young people who shine to our best high schools and public universities.
The Common Core debate will undoubtedly dominate the headlines for the next several days. But let’s not allow it to overshadow the advances we have made, as well as those toward which we must continue working.