Here's a paragraph from Chancellor Joel Klein's testimony yesterday before the House panel on education; below it, some amplification on what the stats really mean, thanks to this handy PowerPoint from the DOE.
"In fourth-grade math, for example, the gap separating our African-American and white students has narrowed by more than 16 points. In eighth-grade math, African-American students have closed the gap with white students by almost 5 points. In fourth-grade reading, the gap between African-American and white students has narrowed by more than 6 points. In eighth-grade reading, the gap has closed by about 4 points."
First, the good news: Overall, nearly 80% of fourth-graders score at or above grade level in math. That's good. The race gap Klein highlights persists but is narrowing. Also good. But the 18-point split between black and white students leaps to 30 points by 8th grade, when math proficiency drops to 59% overall. So closing a gap by 5 points IS progress -- but the gap that remains is six times as wide.
In English Language Arts (ELA), 26 points separate black and white fourth-grade students who score on or above grade level; the gap endures, at 29 points, in eighth grade. But the overall average score plummets in parallel with the math score -- 61% score at or above grade level in fourth grade, but fewer than half, 43%, earn level 3/4 on their eighth grade ELA.
And two items worth the mention, although Klein elected to skip them: This year, grade 5 level 3/4 ELA scores were 69%; grade 6 level 3/4 scores plummeted to 53% -- roughly, a 20% drop. What happened in that transitional year? And top scorers on the Level 4 ELAs represent a very small slice of the New York City pie: Only 5.8% of fourth graders and 2.9% of eighth graders scored Level 4 on these critical standardized exams.
Head spinning yet? The numbers sure are...