City Science Scores
February 24th, 2011

A frequent criticism lobbed at the city’s — and the country’s — addiction to standardized tests for measuring student achievement is that everything not on the test tends to get short shrift.

Science scores released today tend to bolster that argument, at least as far as the city is concerned. New York City students lagged far behind other kids on a national science test given to eighth graders in 2009 and even did worse than their counterparts in other big cities. Sixty-two percent of the city eighth graders who took the test (only a sample do) did not, according to the test, have even basic science skills and knowledge; only 13 percent scored proficient or advanced, the two highest levels. This compares to 38 percent of all U.S. eighth graders scoring below basic and 56 percent of big city kids.

The city’s fourth graders fared better, keeping pace with their fellow students across the country. That could offer scant comfort, though, sine it indicates some 44 percent scored below basic.

According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, among eighth graders, whites and Hispanics scored lower than the big city average; other groups were about the same. No group in New York outperformed on the eighth grade test. Among fourth graders, most groups performed at around the national average for city kids, except for those eligible for school lunch (a measure of poverty), who did better than other eligible students in U.S. cities.

These tests — like so many others — cast doubts on New York State’s testing program. On state science exams, the Times noted, “80 percent of the citys fourth graders and 49 percent of its eighth graders showed proficiency.”

The city — which usually welcomes all tests except the ones it does not — tried to put some of the blame elsewhere. Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city’s chief academic officer, said districts that did better than New York tended to have fewer low-income students than New York City, the kind of reasoning the Bloomberg education department generally rejects. However, he added, this is not to say that this is something were proud of, in terms of where we are now.

The concern about a possible decline in science education is nothing new. Earlier this year Steve Koss wrote extensively about the fall off in New York City kids becoming finalists or even winning the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search.

Tracking a sharp decline in New York kids triumphing in what he called the world cup of high school science since the beginning of the Bloomberg administration, Koss offered a number of possible explanations, including the emphasis on testing, the rise of smaller schools and budgetary constraints.

By on February 24, 2011, 4:52 pm
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