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Scores On Respected National Exam Say NY Students Not Making Much Progress

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New York students haven not been making much progress, according to a respected national exam, but state officials say it's still too early to see the effects of the latest reforms. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Recently, it's been hard to know whether schools in New York are getting better or worse.

State test scores went way up, but then, in 2009, officials said the tests should be harder. Scores went down. Last spring, the state changed the exams completely and scores plummeted.

Every two years, though, there's some clarity. Across the country, a sample of fourth and eighth graders take the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. It's known as the gold standard of testing and referred to as the nation's report card.

"It's the one stable measuring instrument for educational achievement that the U.S. government has had since the '70s," said Aaron Pallas of Teachers College.

So how are students in New York doing? Pretty much the same. During the past decade, the state's scores have flatlined.

In reading, 37 percent of fourth graders and 35 percent of eighth graders are proficient, and in math, 40 percent of fourth graders and 32 percent of eighth graders are on track. Those results are similar to the results of the new, more difficult state tests.

New York is at the forefront of adopting two major education reforms: a more rigorous teacher evaluation system and higher learning standards, called the Common Core. However, both experts and state officials say that it's too early to see the effects of these changes on NAEP scores.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she's hopeful that the next NAEP scores, in 2015, will show that the reforms are working. She points to Washington, D.C. and Tennessee, both slightly ahead of New York in making those big changes to education. They saw significant gains in their NAEP scores.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also attributed those successes to the common core and new evaluation systems.

"It's showing some pretty remarkable dividends," he said.

Experts, though, say that it's too early to draw those conclusions.

"I am quite sure that the statisticians and researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics are cringing when they hear him say this," Pallas said.

The city's NAEP results are expected to be released in December.

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