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  June 5, 2005

Test Scores Going Up: Something We Can All Be Proud Of

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Three years ago this month, the Governor and State Legislature enacted the historic legislation that opened a new era of hope for our City's public schools. They granted the City control of its school system. With that authority came accountability. We accepted the challenge. We launched a comprehensive reform of the schools, and set for ourselves the goal of "ensuring that every student acquires the skills in reading, writing, and math that are the foundations of all learning."

Our reforms are working. Earlier this spring, more than 275,000 students in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th grades took standardized, independently graded tests in math, and more than 300,000 were tested in the "English Language Arts" skills of reading comprehension and writing. Last week, we got the results. Our students achieved the highest scores ever. They posted the biggest one-year gains in both math and ELA since the City started administering these tests in 1999. And for the first time, at least half of the students met or exceeded their grade-level standards on both tests.

There were big gains in every grade. The results from the 5th grade were especially impressive. Remember that at the beginning of this school year, we said that we would end the "social promotion" of 5th graders, just as we had abolished social promotion for 3rd graders last year. We also took aggressive steps to identify and help 5th grade students who were at risk of being held back. The result: There was a jump of nearly 20 percentage points in 5th graders meeting or exceeding standards on the ELA test, and a better than 15-percentage-point increase on the math test.

For too many years, there have also been persistently wide gulfs in test scores among students of different racial and ethnic groups. This has been one of the most shameful features of public education in our city-and our Administration has been determined to close this "achievement gap." So I am very pleased to say that this year, Black and Hispanic students also recorded their greatest year-to-year gains ever on both the ELA and math tests.

Students should feel proud of what they've accomplished-and so should their parents. Our teachers also deserve a lot of praise. They have put in the long hours - in their classrooms during the day, and often enough, in their homes, grading homework and preparing lesson plans at night and on the weekends. They have given the extra effort to help our students realize their full potential-and their hard work is paying off.

These test scores show that our Administration's investments in classroom education, and our policy of holding students, teachers, parents, and ourselves accountable for results, are making a difference. We've still got a long way to go, but we're on the right track. We've made more headway in improving student classroom performance than at any time in the city's recent history. If we stay the course, then we can look forward to a future bright with promise for our youngsters, and for our city.