Last month, state education officials warned the Board of Regents in their monthly meeting that New York State was facing a “tsunami” of new schools that would be out of compliance with federal guidelines.
Today, the first wave hit.
The number of new schools that failed to show sufficient progress skyrocketed by more than 700 percent this year, state officials announced today. They identified 847 new schools statewide – compared with just 102 new schools last year – that need to improve in order to meet the state’s proficiency standards. The total number of schools on the list is now at 1325, up from 501 a year ago.
Just 23 schools showed enough progress to be removed from the list.
Schools that need more improvement won’t face immediate penalties. The list is considered a way to measure adequate yearly progress (AYP) as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which has a requirement of achieving 100 percent proficiency in 2014.
Those expectations have widely been acknowledged to be unreasonable, however. In October, President Obama announced that states could apply for a waiver from the 2014 proficiency goals as long as they agree to comply with new standards that are more in line with his reform agenda. New York State officials have quickly moved to apply for the waiver and plans to submit to the federal government next year.
But even as they work on the waiver application to opt out of the NCLB measurements, state education officials struck an urgent tone that the growing list was “further evidence” that schools were not improving fast enough.
“These numbers show that too many schools are moving in the opposite direction,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch in a statement. “If student performance doesn’t improve, schools must be held accountable. We are watching.”
In New York City, the list of schools in need of improvement more than doubled this year, from 302 to 640 and just 12 schools were removed from the list. All but one school district – district 26 in Queens – was tagged as in need of improvement.
The huge spike reflects changes being made at the state level to make students more prepared for college and professional careers. Two years ago, the state raised cut scores on its English language arts and math standardized tests for grades 3-8 while at the same time making them less predictable. In addition, the state raised the percentages of students who must graduate.
Eighty-two percent of the new New York City schools on the list this year were elementary and middle schools that were cited for low performance on English language arts exams, reflecting the increasing difficulty of that test. All schools on the list will be required to undergo School Quality Reviews.
City officials said today that the NCLB measures were flawed because they distorted actual progress being made by its schools. They cited that more than half of the 350 new schools added to the NCLB list earned either an A or B on this year’s progress reports.
“We support strong accountability measures, but those that look at absolute proficiency alone penalize schools that are making progress,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement today.