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The Achievement Gap Widens in New York City



This year, New York State rejiggered the standardized tests that it uses to measure the math and reading proficiency of its third through eighth graders. Frankly, officials said, according to a New York Times piece, the exams had become too predictable—and thus, not hard enough.

The result of the state's efforts to raise its standards: The failure of nearly half of its students to measure up to them—fewer than half of the kids are proficient in English and only 54 percent have the required math skills. (Last year, roughly 67 percent of New York students were up to snuff in English, with 82 percent were proficient in math.)

This weekend, the Times ran an excellent infographic that illustrates how black and hispanic students were the primary victims of the heightened standards—which had the immediate effect of widening the achievement gap between those minority groups and white and Asian students in New York City.

One of the many schools whose once strong numbers were humbled by the shift was the Promise Academy, the centerpiece charter school of the Harlem Children's Zone. The school saw its third graders go from 100 percent proficiency in math in 2009 to only 56 percent as weighted against the tougher standards.

Those results won't help the HCZ as it refutes a study from the Brookings Institution, which asserts that the wraparound programs related to nutrition, employment, and other social services do not help to raise the level of student performance at schools within the Zone. The Obama administration wants to replicate so-called "promise neighborhoods" based on the HCZ model around the country, though the House recently slashed funding for the effort.

Geoffrey Canada, who conceived of and runs the HCZ, remained undaunted in his mission, as he responded to the new test scores in the Times:

There are two reactions those of us in this business can have. One is to complain, and it’s human nature to do that. The other is to say we need to do something dramatically more intensive and powerful to prepare our kids. We are going to look at the mirror and say we have got to do better.

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