Brennan Says Substantial Improvement Occurred in New York City Schools Prior to the Onset of Mayoral Reforms; Improvement Related to Early Education Investments

January 28, 2009
New York State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) has released an education report in advance of NYS Assembly Committee on Education public hearings on mayoral control. The report, "New York City Public School Student Improvement Before and After Mayoral Control," demonstrates that the groundwork for student improvement, as measured by increasing percentages of students reaching proficiency on 4th and 8th grade State tests, was in place prior to the implementation of mayoral reforms.

Brennanís report compares the changes in test scores that occurred from 1998-99 to 2002-03, the period of time prior to the implementation of mayoral reforms, to the period that follows mayoral reforms, 2002-03 to 2007-08. The report outlines increased expenditures during those same two periods, outlining overall spending, per pupil spending, relatively larger increased spending at the elementary level, and increased spending in Universal Pre-kindergarten, early grade class size reduction, summer school, and professional development and teacher compensation.

"Two-thirds of 4th grade test score improvements occur from 1998-99 to 2002-03, prior to the onset of mayoral reforms," Brennan added. The report demonstrates a relationship between test score improvements and these increased expenditures. Education spending nearly doubled over the past nine years, with elementary school spending per student rising 37% prior to mayoral reforms, and 79% by 2006. These expenditures were focused, in large part, on early education.

Pre-Kindergarten enrollments nearly tripled; early grade class sizes were significantly reduced; summer school programs were in place, and professional development expenditures had increased by 179% - all prior to the onset of mayoral reforms. Student improvement seems to be closely related to these investments.

Brennan notes, "The largest single-year math improvement for 4th graders occurs from 2001-02 to 2002-03 which saw a 14.7% jump. The second largest increase occurs among the 8th grade students in 2007-08. These students are the same cohort that contained the first large jump in Pre-K enrollment in 1998-99, when Pre-K nearly doubled from 14,000 to 24,000 students." The 2004-05 4th grade test scores of 59% in ELA and 77% in math also coincide with another large Pre-K enrollment increase to 34,000 in 1999-2000 from 14,000 two years earlier.

Brennan notes that the proper benchmarking year by which to measure mayoral reforms is the 2002-03 school year. However, the DOE continues to set the benchmark back a year, which inflates the accomplishments under mayoral control. "That change was not enacted until June 2002, and the onset of mayoral reforms did not begin until September 2003. Therefore, the 2002-03 school year is the correct benchmark for comparing test results before and after mayoral reforms," Brennan said.

Brennan is releasing his report in conjunction with the upcoming public hearings that are being conducted by the NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Education, chaired by Hon. Catherine Nolan (D- Queens). The first such hearing is on Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:00 am at Queens Borough Hall.