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Mayor de Blasio touts NYC students' exam gains; experts call results modest progress

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, left,

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, left, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hold a news conference at P.S. 19 on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, to announce that New York City students have continued to improve in the third year of the Common Core-aligned state English and math exams. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City's third- to eighth-grade students showed modest scoring gains on state math and English exams, according to results released Wednesday.

This year's scores indicated that 35.2 percent of students achieved proficiency in math -- it was 34.2 percent last year -- while 30.4 percent did so in English, up from 28.4 percent the prior year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing at an East Village school Wednesday to tout the results, said it was "a beautiful day for this city's children." His schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, "gets an A for effort and an A for success," he said. And Fariña called the results "very significant."

Not so fast, cautioned some experts, who said that the citywide gains suggested modest if not flat progress -- warning that fluctuating standards because of national curriculum changes make year-to-year comparisons difficult.

Aaron M. Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Columbia University's Teachers College, said the results being touted by the city as gains are "not an amount that is worth crowing about."

"The numbers are true, but in terms of what it actually means -- as an indicator of big changes or big gains in the city -- it's spin."

The number of students opting out of the tests -- which was about 20 percent statewide -- was less than 2 percent in New York City.

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