ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — For a second straight year, at least 20 percent of New York students sat out of this year’s Common Core tests, but those who took them showed gains in English and to a lesser extent, math.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released the results Friday, noting that changes made to the 2016 tests cloud direct comparisons to last year’s results.

Overall, however, 37.9 percent of third- through eighth-grade students scored proficient in English language arts, up 6.6 percentage points from 2015. In math, the percentage of students considered proficient increased by one percentage point to 39.1 percent.

“We have seen incredible improvement on these exams, and it’s so important that we’ve seen it in every single school district – a testament to not only the hard work of students, but the importance of having strong educators at the helm: our superintendents, principals and teachers,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.

About 21 percent of the 1.1 million eligible students opted out of the tests, up slightly from last year despite changes — including making the tests shorter — meant to increase participation.

Fariña said that there was a substantial decrease in students scoring at the lowest proficiency level, particularly among black and Hispanic students.

“We have much to celebrate today but no time to slow down. I look forward to working together with students, families and educators to build on these essential accomplishments,” she said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement Friday, praising the students, their families, and teachers for the performance.

“Our public schools are a cornerstone of New York City. These results represent important progress and outline real improvements across each borough of our City. We congratulate our students, families and devoted educators for this critical step forward. We remain focused on building on these gains and others – such as the highest-ever high school graduation rate – to deliver equity and excellence for every public school student across the City, no matter their zip code.”

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