Volume 18 • Issue 6 | July 1-7, 2005

Test scores are mostly up Downtown

By M.L. Liu

Students at P.S. 150, P.S. 234 and P.S. 124 can head off for summer vacation knowing they led Lower Manhattan schools in performance on this year’s city and state standardized tests.

At P.S. 150 in Tribeca, 94.8 percent of students who took the city and state English language arts, or reading, test scored a 3 or 4, meaning they met or exceeded the learning standards. On the city math test, 94 percent of P.S. 150 students achieved the same scores, with the most dramatic improvement in the fifth grade. This year, 92.3 percent of fifth graders scored a 3 or 4 on the math test compared to 57.7 percent last year.

“We look very closely at not just the kids who are at risk of maintaining grade level performance, but we look at kids who might be more borderline,” said P.S. 150 principal Alyssa Polack, in explaining her students’ performance. In addition to classroom teachers, the school has a literacy and a math intervention teacher who help individualize instruction for students.

Polack also said that different students and a new fifth grade teacher who is a math leader could account for the rise in the fifth grade math scores. P.S. 150 has only one class per grade, meaning less than 30 students took each of the tests.

New York City public school students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 took the city reading test and city math test in April. Students in grades 4 and 8 took the state reading test in January and February and the state math test in May.

P.S. 124 in Chinatown had the greatest number of students – about 150 – taking each of the standardized tests. At P.S. 124, 90.1 percent of students who took the reading test and 91.2 percent of students who took the math test performed on a level 3 or 4.

At P.S. 234 in Tribeca, 93.4 percent of students who took the reading test and 88.7 percent of students who took the math test scored a 3 or 4.

Over 80 percent of students in all grades who took the city and state reading test at other Lower Manhattan elementary schools, with the exception of P.S. 2 and P.S./I.S. 126, scored a 3 or 4.

Students who score a 1 or 2 on a standardized test are considered to be performing below standard. Third and fifth graders who do not achieve at least a 2 on both the city reading and math test can be held back a grade.

I.S. 126 and M.S. 131 did not do as well as other Lower Manhattan elementary schools. The percentage of M.S. 131 students who scored a 3 on the sixth-grade reading test increased from 29.2 percent to 41.6 percent, but only 5.3 percent of sixth graders scored a 4. Only 46.9 percent of M.S. 131 sixth graders earned a 3 or 4 on the city reading test. In the city as a whole, 48.2 percent of sixth graders scored a 3 or 4 on the test.

The percentage of students at M.S. 131 who met or exceeded standards on the sixth-grade math test also decreased, from 60.7 percent to 47.2 percent, even though the number of students taking the test in 2004 and 2005 was relatively the same.

On the eighth-grade reading test, 30.8 percent of I.S. 126 students achieved a 3 or 4 while 32.8 percent of eighth graders citywide did as well on the same test. The number of students at I.S. 126, however, has increased dramatically since 2003, when Manhattan Academy of Technology (M.S. 897) merged with P.S. 126.

“We acknowledge the fact that we need to do a lot more work in middle school,” said Daria Rigney, a local instructional superintendent for Region 9, who oversees P.S./I.S. 126 and P.S. 150. “We’re going to look at reading assessments. … We’re going to make sure instruction is tailored to kids’ needs as well as what is required.”

A person who answered the phone at M.S. 131, who would not give her name, said the school does not talk about test scores with the press. Alice Young, the local instructional superintendent for M.S. 131, declined to comment.

Several Chinese parents picking up students outside M.S. 131 last week were unable to comment in English. Antonia Flores, who was waiting for her grandson outside the school, did not seem worried about test scores at the school, however.

“I have no complaints,” said Flores, whose grandson is in the sixth grade. “They are taking care of the kids.”

State math results will be released in late summer or early fall of this year.

A June 1 city Department of Education press release highlighted the fact that for the first time since testing began in 1999, 50 percent or more of city students in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7 met or exceeded the reading (54.8 percent) and math (50 percent) standards for their grades.

Such news does not alleviate the concern of parents like Tom Goodkind, whose daughter Olivia attends P.S. 89. He said she scored well on the interim math exam, which he credits in part to her use since last August of a test preparation service. He hopes the P.T.A. considers funding a test preparation program next year, adding, “it would be a great way to spend money to advance the future of our children.”

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