Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein haven’t been shy about touting one of their most impressive achievements: narrowing the racial achievement gap in city schools. In 2008, the two men testified before Congress about their historic progress. Last year, when numbers showed that 70 percent of students met state standards, Bloomberg said, “We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever.” But according to the Times, the results from this year’s tests, which officials say more accurately reflect students’ capabilities, gravely undermine prior claims. Passing rates dropped by more than 25 percent on the majority of tests. What’s more, the racial achievement gap looks more like a gulf.
Among city students grades three through eight, 40 percent of black and Hispanic students met state standards in math, in contrast with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. The gap is almost as wide in English, with 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students demonstrating proficiency, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians.
Michael J. Petrilli, a vice-president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Times, “The claims were based on some bad information.” The state Education Department raised the number of correct answers needed to pass in order to more accurately reflect what students needed to know. The adjustment sent scores plummeting. The city’s closing achievement gap was held up by President Bush as evidence of the success of No Child Left Behind.