The Work Ahead
Following New York’s Race to the Top win of $700 million over the next four years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was eager to seize the issue as proof of the success of the city’s educational policies, saying that the victory was “a testament to what we’ve accomplished in our city schools over the last eight years.”
What accomplishments could he possibly be referring to? Only three weeks ago, New York raised the proficiency standards for its standardized math and reading examinations, and revealed that student grades had been inflated for years. Passing rates plummeted as much as 25 percent, and where New York was once heralded for making significant headway in closing the achievement gap, the new results painted a disheartening reality. Among third to eight graders, 75 percent of white students were deemed proficient in math, compared with only 40 percent of African American students. In English, 64 percent of white students met state standards, compared with only 33 percent of their black classmates.
Angry parents demonstrated at a meeting of a city Education Department panel last week, leading Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and other panel members to walk out. Meanwhile, Klein has now taken to highlighting the city’s graduation and college enrollment rates as evidence of the closing achievement gap.
A recent analysis by the Schott Foundation, however, argues otherwise. A nationwide study, the report examines the graduation rates for black males, and finds that New York’s achievement gap is greater than the national average. Almost one-third of black male fourth graders score below the basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for math, and half of black male eighth graders score below the basic level for reading. At the high school level, only 28 percent of black male students in New York City graduated with their Regents diplomas in 2007/2008.
These statistics are nothing to boast about, and Race to the Top funding or not, our political leaders do our students no justice by understating the deep and persistent inequities in the education system.