New York Public School Students Cannot Do Science!

Dear Commons Community,

It appears that in the past year we have had one bit of bad news after the other regarding the New York City’s public schools.  First, there was the NYS  Education Department as well as the NYC Department of Education admission in October 2010 that the standardized tests used to evaluate competencies and achievement were “dumbed down” for many years (see my blog posting The Dishonesty of Standardized Testing in New York City Redux!).

Second,  New York State education officials released a new set of graduation statistics in February 2011 that show less than half of students in the state are leaving high school prepared for college and well-paying careers (see my blog post of February 8, 2011).    In New York City, the results show that only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009, not counting special-education students. That is well under half the current graduation rate of 64 percent, a number often promoted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as evidence that his education policies are working.

Now according to an article in the NY Times yesterday, it appears that NYC students are not able to do science.  Only 18 percent of the city’s public school fourth graders and 13 percent of its eighth graders demonstrated proficiency on the most recent national science exams, far below state and national levels, according to results released Thursday.  Shael Polakow-Suransky, the City Education Department’s chief academic officer, and Alan J. Friedman, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the tests, called the city’s results “a big disappointment”.  Mr. Friedman is quoted as saying that the the city’s poor performance in science suggested that the emphasis on math and English, which have been the main measures of school progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law, had come at the expense of other subjects. “It does play a big role,” he said, “and that’s one of the major problems we have.”

It is refreshing to see the honesty of Mr. Polakow-Suransky and Mr. Friedman in their assessment of this situation.  For nine years, we had only good news and media hype from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former School’s Chancellor Joel Klein about the progress that had been made under mayoral control in the New York City public schools.   By the way, where is Chancellor Black on any of this.



  1. Tony, I was speaking with a colleague who’s worked in College Now and other bridge programs for many years. He tells me that exactly three Bronx high schools offer college-prep, lab-based chemistry. Three.