May 7, 2024

On Teacher Appreciation Day, Educators and Advocates Call Upon NYC Leaders to Address Math Achievement Crisis

 Following NYC Reads, which made a historic investment in literacy instruction, educators and advocates say a similar initiative is needed for math

NEW YORK CITY – Coinciding with Teacher Appreciation Day, Educators for Excellence-New York (E4E-NY) announced a set of policy recommendations developed by teachers that call on New York City leadership to address the city’s math achievement crisis. The announcement follows concerning results from last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which revealed only 18% of the city’s fourth-graders were proficient in math. Advocates say that while NYC Reads’ investments in literacy were a positive first step for the city, numeracy is an equally crucial cornerstone of high-quality education. 

Although NYC Reads contained an algebra pilot program at the ninth-grade level, city leadership has raised the possibility of providing expanded curricula support in math, as high school algebra is often too late a point of intervention for students who have already fallen behind. High-quality math curricula at the middle school level would strategically target support for students long before challenges within the subject matter compound.

“High-quality math education is not just a necessity but a right for every student,” said Marielys Divanne, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-New York. “Our city must match its commitment to literacy with an equivalent focus on numeracy, starting with middle school, so that our students are adequately prepared for high school and beyond. We can’t afford to make the same mistake we made with literacy and wait another 20 years to take action and get this right.”

Linneh Quinn, a New York City ninth-grade Algebra teacher, said, “New York City students’ math test scores dropped during the pandemic and have not recovered. We must rise to the moment and do something about it by implementing these recommendations. Students must master foundational math skills in order to be successful in higher-level math courses, and we need students to be ready in math before they reach high school.”

Advocates also say that investing in middle school math won’t interfere with the city’s historic literacy initiative. Instead, a middle school math initiative could complement it. 

“New York is facing an unprecedented crisis as our students fall further behind in math and reading,” said Ashara Baker, New York State Director of the National Parents Union. “New York eighth-grade students are two years behind their peers in Massachusetts in math achievement, and gaps continue to widen for students across the state. We know that other states that have adopted policies that embrace the science and strategy behind high-quality math instruction are seeing gains. It’s time for New York City to step up.”

Tia Morris, Executive Director of Teach for America New York, added, “Reading and math instruction are not mutually exclusive, and our students deserve to get a high-quality education in every subject. Yet, by focusing on math at the middle school level, we can allow elementary schools to focus on the new literacy initiative while simultaneously preparing students in mathematics at the middle school level.”

Advocates also emphasized the urgency of immediate and swift action.

“Assessment data that NYSED released last year reveals that only 41% of 8th graders are proficient in math, with rates significantly lower for Black (31%), Latinx (32%), and students from low-income backgrounds (34%),” said Arlen Benjamin-Gomez, Executive Director of The Education Trust-New York. “Eighth-grade math is a critical indicator of future student success. Such results raise troubling questions about the impact of the pandemic on foundational math skills for students. New York City should meet the urgency of the moment with a middle school math initiative.”

The recommendations released today focus on engaging school communities and educators in selecting culturally responsive and high-quality curricular materials, providing aligned professional learning for teachers, and ensuring all middle school students have the support needed to succeed in mathematics. These steps aim not only to improve immediate educational outcomes but also to lay a stronger foundation for higher education and career readiness. New York City leadership is urged to commit to making these changes swiftly to avoid a repeat of the slow progress seen in literacy over the past two decades.


About Educators for Excellence

Founded by public school teachers, Educators for Excellence is a growing movement of more than 35,000 educators, united around a common set of values and principles for improving student learning and elevating the teaching profession. We work together to identify issues that impact our schools, create solutions to these challenges, and advocate for policies and programs that give all students access to a quality education. 

Currently Reading

On Teacher Appreciation Day, Educators and Advocates Call Upon NYC Leaders to Address Math Achievement Crisis