February 2012 Issue
January 31, 2012

How New York students are really doing

Author: Betsy Sandberg
Source: NYSUT United
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New York's students excel in many key areas, making it crystal clear that the state's public education system works. Students are making gains in science and technology while increasing the strength of their studies by completing Advanced Placement courses in record numbers. At the same time, New York educators earn high marks for outcomes and accountability and for efforts in closing the achievement gap.

So don't let the public be fooled when Governor Cuomo and "reformers" trot out his claim that New York ranks 38th in graduation results. This statistic fails to acknowledge the rigors of New York's graduation requirements when compared to other states. It also fails to acknowledge that graduation rates in New York have improved dramatically even as the State Education Department raised standards and requirements, and as lawmakers slashed state aid.

In fact, what they are not saying is that the state's graduation rate has soared — from 49 percent in 2000 to 73.4 percent in 2010. Factor in the students who graduate in five years, and the rate is even higher — 78.3 percent.

Here's more about what the public needs to know about student achievement:

No. 1 in meeting business needs

A CNBC study ranks New York's education system as first in the nation for providing what business needs. CNBC noted that education and business go hand in hand. Not only do companies want to draw from an educated pool of workers, they also want to offer their employees a great place to raise a family. CNBC noted the higher education institutions in our state offer companies a source to recruit new talent, as well as a partner in research and development. They also looked at K-12 test scores, class size and spending.


New York is tops in science

In the prestigious Intel competition, New York schools have more Intel semifinalists — 105 — than any other state. The next closest state is California with 41.

James M. Gentile, president of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, praised New York's numbers, noting that New York City's schools had 25 semifinalists; Long Island's 61 semifinalists is more than 20 percent of the national total of 300.

Behind each of these outstanding students is inevitably an extraordinary teacher, and in some cases that teacher is inspiring more than one semifinalist — as well as other students who may not be honored in this way, and still more who may have been honored in past years or will be in the future. This kind of excellence does not come without inspiring teaching," he wrote.


More students in AP classes

Our state ranks second in the nation for the percentage of students successfully completing Advanced Placement courses. Performing well on an AP exam means students are achieving at a college level and in fact a number of colleges use AP test scores to exempt students from introductory coursework. In 2010, New York had 24.6 percent of the class of 2010 completing high school with at least one successful AP exam.

That is second only to Maryland's 26.4 percent.


High ranks for outcomes

The 16th annual edition of Education Week's Quality Counts ranks New York state third in the nation overall for its policy efforts and outcomes. Of special note, New York got an A- for standards, assessments and accountability and was ranked fifth for both pre-school enrollment and postsecondary participation. On how states are doing at closing poverty-based achievement gaps, New York ranked first in the nation for closing the gap in eighth-grade math, and third in the nation for closing the gap in fourth-grade reading.

Realize that once we've made gains in areas like closing a gap, we can't rank high in that area again. In previous years, we've ranked high for closing the gap in other areas. And as to the teaching profession in New York state? Though Education Week gives the state only a grade of C for "building and supporting capacity of teachers," the accountability for quality is given an A, scoring 94 points out of 100.

Fifth in science readiness

New York is fifth in the nation on the Science and Engineering Readiness Index from the American Institute of Physics. Unlike other state rankings that concentrate on making all students scientifically literate, the SERI focuses on high school subjects most important to future scientists and engineers — physics and calculus.


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