By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The poor showing of New York City public school students on the new, more rigorous standardized exams in English and math demonstrates the failure of the Bloomberg Administration’s educational policy, according to Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
Thompson, the former comptroller, who also served as president of the New York City Board of Education before the state education law was changed to give the mayor sole power over the city’s school system, released a statement on Aug. 7, the day the test results were released.
"What we learned again today is that after 12 years of demonizing teachers, 12 years of teaching to the test and shutting out parents and communities, the Bloomberg administration's efforts are headed in the wrong direction,” Thompson, who has been endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers, said.
Thompson charged that Mayor Michael Bloomberg emphasizes “teaching to the test,” a policy that has teachers spend most of their time preparing students for the statewide exams rather than teaching.
“Teaching to the test doesn't even help on the test. And the kids who are being hurt the most are the kids who need help the most - young people in black and Latino neighborhoods where the opportunity gap is being compounded with a massive achievement gap,” Thompson said.
“Tests should only be part of a feedback loop that identifies where students need help and where teachers can improve. We need a new mayor who will make sure that our students have a curriculum that prepares them for college and careers and that our teachers have the support and tools they need to place our children on this path," he said.
The New York Times reported that the test scores in both subject areas dropped precipitously from last year. Only 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the tests in English, while only 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Department of Education.
In 2012, 47 percent of the city’s students passed the English test, and 60 percent passed the math exam.
This year’s exams were purposely made more difficult, with youngsters’ skills of analysis, rather than simple memorization, taking up the lion’s share of the test time.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the mayor and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott insisted that while the test results were low, students would adapt and perform better as time goes on.
“Our administration has consistently raised the bar for our students – and given time and support, they have consistently risen to the occasion,” Bloomberg said.
“We are confident that they will rise to this challenge – and it’s encouraging that our students are out-performing their peers in the other cities around the state. In addition, they are closing the gap with students in the rest of the state, something few people thought possible a decade ago. The new Common Core curriculum, as it is phased in, will empower students to achieve at higher levels in the years ahead and graduate high school ready for college and careers,” Bloomberg said.
“We have known for over a year that a higher bar would initially mean lower scores,” Walcott said. “But this change is important, and students, teachers, and schools will not be penalized by the transition. With an unprecedented amount of support being provided, I have full confidence that schools will effectively take on this challenge and students will reach this higher bar, as they have many times before,” he said.