Rochester's students continue to lag in English, math

Aug 22, 2019

Credit New York State Education Department

The State Education Department released the spring 2019 test results for grades 3-8 in English and math Thursday, and the Rochester City School District remains the lowest performing of the state's Big Five districts.

Only 13.2 percent of the Rochester district's students were grade-level proficient in English. That was an improvement of 1.8 percentage points from the prior year. 

In math, 13 percent of students were grade-level proficient, an improvement of 2.3 percentage points.

The biggest gains in English were in grades 5 and 7, and in math, the biggest gains were in grades 3 and 6.

Of the Big Five districts, New York City's students scored the highest, with 47.4 percent proficient in English and 45.6 percent in math. Those scores were close to the statewide figures of 45.4 proficient in English and 46.7 in math.

The statewide charter school proficiency rates were higher than the totals for traditional public schools in both English and math. Statewide, 54 percent of charter school students were proficient in English, and 54 percent were proficient in math; those numbers remained the same as the prior year.

Locally, Rochester Academy Charter School showed a 20 percent proficiency in English and 13 percent proficiency in math.

The improvement in Rochester's scores is not likely to impress critics who are advocating for a change in how the district is governed. But parents and educators who oppose high-stakes testing will likely continue to refute the value of the results. Though "test refusals" have dropped statewide from 19 percent at its peak to 16 percent this year, many opponents of testing argue that districts that are mostly white and more affluent tend to do better on tests.

For instance, the Penfield school district has an all-grades proficiency rate of 63 percent in English, with 24 percent of students performing at level 4, the advanced-learning level.  But out of 1,106 students tested, only 23 were English language learners — students whose first language is not English.

Similarly, in the Pittsford school district, 72 percent of the students were proficient in English, with 34 percent at level 4 or advanced. But only 13 students out of the 1,542 tested were English language learners.

In the Rochester school district, however, 13 percent of the students were proficient in English with none at level 4 or advanced. And out of 11,047 students tested, 1,666 were English language learners.

Also, nearly 90 percent of all city school students qualify for free or reduced cost meals, much higher than in any of the area's suburban districts.

Macaluso is a CITY Newspaper reporter.

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