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National Test Results Indicate Good And Bad News For Bloomberg's Legacy

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It's been tough to figure out whether city schools are doing better or worse since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the schools, as state standardized tests have changed several times during those dozen years, but the latest results of one reliable national test include both good news and bad news for the mayor's education legacy. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

It's known as the nation's report card and considered the gold standard of standardized testing. Every two years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, looks at how fourth and eighth graders are doing in reading and math, across every state and 21 of the largest urban school districts.

Here, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ambitious school reform efforts over the past decade, scores have gone up.

With 10 points equaling about one grade level of growth, since 2003, math scores have gone up nine points in fourth grade and eight points in eighth grade. Reading scores are up 10 points in fourth grade and five points in eighth grade.

"They've worked hard, and we're showing those gains in our NAEP scores, and students basically have gained a year of knowledge as a result of that," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Yet nobody in City Hall is breaking out the champagne. That's because other cities have seen even larger gains.

Take eighth-grade math. When the test began in 2003, New York's average score beat other big cities with high-needs students, and it's only improved since. But it hasn't grown as quickly as Boston and Houston, which both bypassed New York and continue to move further ahead. In addition, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles started out way behind but are quickly closing that gap.

"The mayor likes to talk about all of his great accomplishments, but he doesn't want to deal with the facts," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Both city and federal officials suggested that one reason New York's progress might be slower is that it started out doing better.

"It's sometimes a little harder to move those numbers," said Mike Casserly of the Council of Great City Schools. "So in New York City, as you know, it's a big needle to move."

On a national call with reporters, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that one way to move that needle could be Mayor-elect de Blasio's universal pre-kindergarten plan.

"That's a play not for the next two years or four years, but for the next 20 or 30, and whatever we can do to be supportive of the mayor-elect's efforts there, we want to try and do it," Duncan said.

They'll have that chance, starting in January.

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