number crunching

A list of lists about the data beneath the city's progress reports

As any teacher or student can attest, there’s only so much that a letter grade can tell you about the person who earned it, even if it’s an A.

That’s even more true for the city’s progress report grades, released for the 2011-2012 school year on Monday. Schools get a single letter grade after the Department of Education crunches hundreds of data points, using complex algorithms to measure the schools against each other in addition to absolute standards. The department has a small fleet of officials generating the annual grades, and the spreadsheet containing the underlying data for this year’s scores stretched to 240 columns.

We sorted and re-sorted the spreadsheet to look at some of the city’s many measures of school quality in different ways. Here are a few of the most interesting things we found — and leave a comment to share your data-driven observations.

Four of the top five highest-scoring schools also made the top five last year (marked with an asterisk):

It Takes A Village Academy (Brooklyn)*
Manhattan Village Academy (Manhattan)*
Academy for Careers and Television in Film (Queens)
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (Brooklyn)*
Brooklyn International High School (Brooklyn)*

Four of the five lowest-scoring schools are in Manhattan:

Academy for Social Action: A College Board School (Manhattan)
Choir Academy of Harlem (Manhattan)
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School (Manhattan)
Boys and Girls High School (Brooklyn)
High School of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan)

At 49 schools, less than 5 percent of 2008’s ninth-graders graduated this year ready for college. Of them, six got A’s:

School for Excellence (Bronx)
Unity Center for Urban Technologies (Manhattan)
El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Brooklyn)
Pan-American International High School (Bronx)
Frances Perkins Academy (Brooklyn)
The Facing History School (Manhattan)

At five schools, not a single graduate earned a Regents diploma or met CUNY’s basic standards:

FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn) got a B
Performance Conservatory High School (Bronx) is closing
Multicultural High School (Brooklyn) got a D
Opportunity Charter School (Manhattan) did not receive a grade
Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School (Brooklyn) got a D

At three schools, all highly selective, not a single member of the class of 2012 would need remediation at CUNY colleges:

Staten Island Technical High School
Townsend Harris High School
High School of American Studies at Lehman College

Four schools — three of them transfer schools (marked with an asterisk) — benefited from the rule that prevents schools with relatively high graduation rates from scoring lower than a C:

Frederick Douglass Academy (Manhattan)
Innovation Diploma Plus High School (Manhattan)
W.E.B. DuBois Academic High School (Brooklyn)
Bronx Haven High School (Bronx)

The seventeen high schools that the city tried but failed to close through “turnaround” received mixed grades:

Alfred E. Smith CTE High School (Bronx) got a B
August Martin High School (Queens) got a D
Automotive High School (Brooklyn) got a C
Banana Kelly High School (Bronx) got a C
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School (Manhattan) got an F
Bronx High School of Business (Bronx) got a C
Flushing High School (Queens) got a D
Fordham Leadership Academy (Bronx) got an F
Herbert H. Lehman High School (Bronx) got an D
High School Of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan) got an F
John Adams High School (Queens) got a C
John Dewey High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Long Island City High School (Queens) got a C
Newtown High School (Queens) got a B
Richmond Hill High School (Queens) got a C
Sheepshead Bay High School (Brooklyn) got a D
William Cullen Bryant High School (Queens) got a C

As did the 13 high schools the city considered for closure last year but did not try to close:

Academy For Scholarship And Entrepreneurship: A College Board School (Bronx) got a B
Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School (Queens) got a D
Freedom Academy High School (Brooklyn) got an F
Fordham Leadership Academy For Business and Technology (Bronx) got an F
Herbert H. Lehman High School (Bronx) got an D
High School Of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan) got an F
Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (Brooklyn) got a C
Law, Government And Community Service High School (Queens) got a D
Wadleigh Secondary School For Performing Arts (Manhattan) got a C

One charter high school that the city lost a legal fight to close got a grade that works in its favor:

Williamsburg Charter High School (Brooklyn) got a B, up from a C

One school did not get a grade this year because its data raised red flags with department officials:

Bronx Health Sciences High School

Seven schools whose data raised red flags last year got scores this year even though investigations into possible improprieties are not over:

Bronx Aerospace (Bronx) got an A
Bushwick School for Social Justice (Brooklyn) got a B
FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn) got a B
Foundations Academy (Brooklyn) got an F
PULSE (Bronx) got a B
School for International Studies (Brooklyn) got a B
Theatre Arts Production Company (Bronx) got a B

And five other schools where the city opened investigations after an internal audit of academic data got grades anyway:

Brooklyn School for Music and Theater got a B
Fordham Leadership Academy (Bronx) got an F
Fort Hamilton High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Hillcrest High School (Queens) got a B
John Adams High School (Queens) got a C

Nine charter high schools got progress report grades, three for the first time (marked with asterisks):

New Heights Academy Charter School got an A for the third straight year
International Leadership Charter School (Bronx) went from a C to an A
Renaissance Charter School (Queens) got a B
Harlem Village Academy (Manhattan) got a C
Williamsburg Charter High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Bronx Preparatory Charter School (Bronx) fell to a D after two straight C’s
Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School (Manhattan) got an A*
Green Dot Charter High School (Bronx) got an A*
NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industries (Bronx) got a B*

Thirty-seven high schools got progress report grades for the first time because they graduated their first classes. Their grade distribution exactly matched the city average. One school got an F:

Foundations Academy (Brooklyn)

Eighty-four schools did not get progress report grades because they are less than four years old or are phasing out.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:

 

The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.

 

In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news