Test Scores Under Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein: A Mixed Report Card


Results were released yesterday for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the results are very mixed under the tenure of Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The national test, which looks at reading proficiency, showed some progress for the city’s fourth-graders, but none at all for the eighth-graders.

To be fair, the results show pretty piss-poor performance across the country.

According to the Times’ Sharon Otterman, “Nationally, only 31 percent of fourth-grade public school students are at or above the ‘proficient’ level in reading, a standard defined by the test as ‘competency over challenging subject matter.'” Another “[s]ixty-five percent are at or above the ‘basic’ level, with partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are considered fundamental.”

Looking at the fourth grade in the city, there has been some tepid improvement. Scores went up four points on the NAEP since 2007, an increase WNYC reports is greater than that in most urban school districts during that period. However, that brings the proficiency rate to just 29 percent — still below the national average. (That number was just 19 percent in 2002, shortly after Bloomberg came into office.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, test scores have steadily gone up much faster on New York State’s reading exam. Under No Child Left Behind, states must continue to show improvements to get federal funds, leading to a widespread belief that states have lowered their expectations to keep their dollars. For example, 29 percent of city fourth-graders are deemed proficient on the NAEP, while 69 percent are on the New York State exam.

Regardless of whatever changes occurred for fourth-graders, the improvement seems to disappear by the time they get to middle school. As the Daily News reports, “Only about 22 percent of city eighth-graders passed the national reading exams, the same percentage as in 2003.” Here, the mayor and Klein have quite literally nothing to show for their time in office. The Times reports that they’re not alone, as city eighth-graders are “mirroring the largely flat performance of American eighth graders as a whole during that period.” But Bloomberg — who has said repeatedly, “Judge me on the schools” — has made mayoral control of education his signature issue in a way other American mayors have not.

And while the NAEP results show that New York City has had success in raising black and lower-income student scores, there’s been no change in Asian, Hispanic, and white student performance, while disparities persist. According to the Times, “Nearly 50 percent of the city’s white fourth graders are proficient in reading, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic students and 17 percent of black students, the test results show. Among eighth graders, 41 percent of white students were proficient, compared with 13 percent of Hispanic students and 12 percent of black students.”