NEW YORK (AP / WCBS 880) -- Test scores for New York City's fourth- and eighth-graders were flat between 2009 and 2011 and the racial achievement gap hardly budged between 2003 and 2011, according to figures from a national assessment of public schools released Wednesday.
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New York schoolchildren scored about the same as public school students in other large cities, according to the statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called nation's report card.
One-third of the city's fourth-graders were proficient in math and 29 percent were proficient in reading, according to the federal Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test.
Among eighth-graders, 24 percent were proficient in math and 24 percent in reading.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the lack of progress does not cast doubt on policies that have been instituted since Mayor Michael Bloomberg won mayoral control of the school system in 2002, such as using student test scores to rate teachers and closing schools that are deemed to be failing.
"I believe in the reforms that we've put in place," Walcott said. "It just puts a greater challenge to us. ... Our goal is to improve on those reforms."
To some degree, Bloomberg shrugged off the report.
"We have done better, made significant progress back from '03. Are we where we want to be? No," said his honor on Wednesday. "I think it just goes to show education is a very difficuly problem. We're working as hard as we can. We are devoting as much money as we can."
Walcott said a city initiative to open 50 new middle schools should improve the performance of eighth-graders.
"This is not a New York City challenge, he said." This is a national challenge of middle schools ... We're willing to meet that challenge head on."
But teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew called the NAEP scores "a lesson on how kids get shortchanged by school reform driven by a political agenda rather than research and evidence." He added, "We're not going to see real and consistent improvement until the system turns its back on test prep and begins to focus on strong curriculum and real instruction."
The national NAEP scores released last month showed that just over one-third of all public school students were proficient in reading. In math, 40 percent of the fourth-graders and 35 percent of the eighth-graders had reached that level.
The results showed how far students are from achieving the federal No Child Left Behind law's goal that every child in America be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
The scores released Wednesday were from fourth and eighth-graders in 21 large urban public school systems.
Scores in most of the urban districts changed little between 2009 and 2011.
In New York City, Bloomberg has stressed the importance of reducing the gap in test scores between white students and black and Hispanic students among the city's 1.1 million public school pupils.
But according to the NAEP results, the city's white students scored better than black and Hispanic students by margins ranging from 22 points to 31 points. Any reduction in the gap between 2003 and 2011 was not statistically significant.
Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said, "We'd like to see that gap closure happen more dramatically."
Polakow-Suransky said New York City scored better than several other cities with lower percentages of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, a marker of poverty.
Ninety percent of the city's fourth-graders and 87 percent of eighth-graders qualified for free or reduced price lunch. Nationally, the figures were 52 percent for fourth-graders and 48 percent for eighth-graders.
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