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Widening Of Achievement Gap On State Tests A Concern For Educators

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The percentage of students passing standardized tests took a nose dive this year, after the state began testing students on much more difficult standards, but NY1 found that some groups of students who were already behind are even more behind now. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

The overall drop in test scores was not what concerned Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, the most last week.

"Perhaps the most disheartening piece of today is the persistence of the achievement gap," Tisch said.

The racial achievement gap, or the difference in academic performance between different racial or ethnic groups of students, is something elected officials and educators have long tried to narrow, if not close.

"Any time you raise the standards, the achievement gap gets bigger, and usually, it's a combination of things," said Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer for the Department of Education.

NY1 looked at the latest, more difficult math test with Teachers College professor and test score expert Aaron Pallas. Last year, the odds of a white or Asian student being proficient were 388 percent higher than the odds for a black or Hispanic student. This year, the odds of a white or Asian student being proficient were 521 percent higher than the odds for a black or Hispanic student.

"Certainly, it's alarming," Pallas said. "It suggests that it's still the case that black and Latino kids will be much less likely to compete successfully."

NY1 took a high-performing school from one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods and compared it to a school with a high-needs population in the South Bronx, the city's lowest-performing school district.

At P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, 85 percent of students are white or Asian, and just 8 percent are poor. At P.S. 1 in the South Bronx, 97 percent of students are black or Hispanic, and 96 percent are poor.

Last year, the odds of a student at the Greenwich Village school passing the math test were 1,220 percent higher than a student at the school in the South Bronx. This year, it's even worse. A P.S. 41 student has 1,560 percent better odds of passing the math test than his or her peer at P.S. 1.

How does that translate into actual scores? 75 percent of the students at the Manhattan school passed the math test, compared to 15 percent of the students at the Bronx school.

The city said it will continue to direct resources toward helping those kids, kids who, even when they make progress, are still falling farther behind.

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