Today’s news:

Queens students boost English scores

All seven Queens school districts recorded a jump in this year’s English Language Arts test scores, according to recently released data from the state Department of Education, although area lawmakers say the results are not as significant as city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg claim.

Bloomberg and Klein are touting the citywide increases in the ELA test scores as proof that mayoral control, which the state Legislature will decide whether or not to extend by the end of next month, has helped to better education in the city since it was implemented in 2002.

“The scores are further evidence that after many years of stagnation, since 2002 we’ve put our schools on the right track,” Bloomberg said in a statement. He gained control of the schools in his first year in office.

The ELA tests are administered to all New York public school students in grades three through eight. ELA scores for 2009 were released by the state DOE last week.

In Queens, 79 percent of students reached a level 3, which the state considers meeting standards, or 4, which indicates exceeding standards, on the exams. This is up 8 percentage points from the 71 percent in 2008.

Glendale−based District 24 saw a 9 percentage point jump from 68 percent to 77 percent of its students reaching level 3 or 4 this year. District 24 also includes schools in Ridgewood, Maspeth, Elmhurst, and Long Island City.

In District 25, which includes schools in Flushing and Whitestone, there was an 8 percentage point jump from 76 percent to 84 percent this year.

District 26, based in Bayside and which also covers schools in Little Neck, Flushing, Floral Park and Douglaston, had the greatest number of students at 93 percent reaching levels 3 and 4. Last year 89 percent of District 26 students did the same.

District 27, which includes 45 schools in Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Far Rockaway, Jamaica, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, saw the largest increase out of Queens’ seven school districts, with an 11 percentage point jump from 66 percent to 77 percent of students reaching levels 3 and 4.

District 28, which covers schools in Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Rego Park, and Forest Hills, went from 70 percent to 77 percent of students passing the exam this year.

District 29 recorded a 10 percent jump from 62 percent to 72 percent in schools in Cambria Heights, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans, Laurelton, Hollis, Queens Village, and Jamaica.

Citywide, 68.8 percent of students reached level 3 or4, up from 57.6 percent last year.

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) called the test scores “irrelevant.”

“Kids are learning how to cheat the test instead of learning the material,” Weprin said. “Kids spend 10 percent of the school year taking tests and 50 percent of the year preparing for tests. That’s ridiculous.”

Bloomberg and Klein continue to emphasize measures like the increase in test scores and the rise in graduation rates as the debate over mayoral control intensifies in Albany. Queens lawmakers like Weprin and state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D−Fresh Meadows) said they expect mayoral control to be renewed, but with significant tweaking to the law passed in 2002.

“The [city] Department of Education is almost a rogue agency, and I cannot support the current mayoral control system without significant changes to increase accountability and parental input,” Lancman said.

Lancman last week introduced a bill that would legally designate the city DOE as an agency subject to the City Charter. Currently, Lancman said the department falls in legal limbo and does not have to follow the charter.

City education officials, including Klein, have praised mayoral control, saying test scores would have not jumped as they have without it. They also disagree that the rise in test scores are meaningless.

PS 78 in Long Island City is one of the borough’s schools where test scores have risen dramatically. About 90 percent of the school’s students have reached levels 3 or 4 on the ELA tests, compared to about 22 percent in 2002.

“I’m really proud of our school,” PS 78 Principal Louis Pavone said. “We focus on educating the whole child. We have great teachers in a school where we have a tremendous amount of parent support.”

Pavone attributes the increase in test scores in part to increased communication between the school community and parents and an increase in arts programming.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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