Critics call NY state’s plans to rate schools based on racial, ethnic group performance ‘dangerous’ and ‘confusing’

New York state’s proposed rating system for reporting on how well schools serve specific “subgroups” sends the wrong message, some advocates say, by creating uneven standards for students of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds.

Under the State Education Department’s draft plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools would receive a rating of 1 through 4 for the academic achievement of each racial or ethnic subgroup of students, as compared to other students in the same subgroups statewide. While regulations under the No Child Left Behind law tracked achievement data by subgroup as well, this is the first time the data will be converted into a rating and presented on every school’s report card.

The subgroups would remain the same as under NCLB: Asian or Pacific Islander, black, Hispanic, Native American, multiracial or white. Students could also be classified as English language learners, low-income, and/or having disabilities. In addition to subgroup scores, the schools would also receive an overall score for the performance of their students compared to all students across the state.

State Education Department officials said the new subgroup ratings, based largely on test scores, are meant to encourage accountability. With each subgroup assigned a performance level, it will be clear how each subgroup in a particular school is performing relative to state goals. It will also allow the state to use measures of “interim progress” individualized for each subgroup, the officials said.

But critics say this system has major drawbacks. Ian Rosenblum, executive director of EdTrust-NY, noted the methodology could create “uneven expectations for student performance,” as the same student test scores that could result in a 2 for the all-students group could generate a 4 for black or low-income students. The ratings, he said, would have no consistent or fair value, and would signal to parents and schools that there are different standards for different groups of students.

“It is extremely dangerous,” Rosenblum said. “If the main information parents have is a dashboard with all these ratings, if they see a 4, they should be confident 4 means a high level of performance. But it doesn’t. It just means better performance than schools with the same subgroups of students.”

Rosenblum acknowledged that the state has reasonable goals: revealing how well schools serve particular subgroups, such as English learners or students with disabilities. But he said the new rating system would “create more problems than it solves.”

Diana Noriega, chief program officer at the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, expressed concern with how the ratings would be communicated to parents. Noriega works closely with parents who do not speak English as their first language — and who often have difficulty understanding the reports and information coming from their children’s school and the city’s education department.

“Think of a parent who is not a native speaker who is also accustomed to getting a level grade for their student, and so they assume the 4 is overall performance,” Noriega said. “Now, you are going to present what seems to be the same data but is not actually the same data. That is confusing.”

Though she does not question the state’s motivation, she said she and her organization will continue to push for the information to be well-described in reports and made easy to understand for parents. The state should track how each subgroup is performing, Noriega said, as it did under No Child Left Behind, but the score presented to parents should be the overall summative school score and not just a score in the context of that subgroup.

Department officials said the state does not yet know what the school dashboards will look like, but that the department is currently working on developing the design.

They acknowledged the negative feedback from advocates. “Some groups have expressed concern that because the long-term goals for subgroups are different, performance at the different levels are not comparable for the different subgroups,” education department officials said. “However, we believe that once persons understand that Level 4 means that this is a high performance for this subgroup of students, we believe this should not be an issue.”

A revised draft of the plan will be provided to the state’s Board of Regents at its July meeting, and the final plan will be acted on by the Regents at their September meeting, according to department officials.

money money money

New York City teachers get news they’ve been waiting for: how much money they’ll receive for classroom supplies

New York City teachers will each get $250 this year to spend on classroom supplies — more than they’ve ever gotten through the city’s reimbursement program before.

The city’s 2017-18 budget dramatically ramped up spending for the Teacher’s Choice program, a 30-year-old collaboration between the City Council and the United Federation of Teachers. More than $20 million will go the program this year.

On Thursday, the union texted its members with details about how the city’s budget will translate to their wallets. General education teachers will each get $250, reimbursable against expenses. (Educators who work in other areas get slightly less; teachers tell the union they spend far more.)

Money given to New York City teachers for classroom supplies, measured in dozens of tissue boxes.

The increase means that Teacher’s Choice has more than recovered from the recent recession. In 2007, teachers were getting $220 a year, but that number fell until the union and Council zeroed out the program in 2011 as part of a budget deal aimed at avoiding teacher layoffs. (Some teachers turned to crowdsourcing to buy classroom supplies.) As the city’s financial picture has improved, and as the union lobbied heavily for the program, the amount inched upwards annually.

“With this increase in funding for Teacher’s Choice, the City Council has sent us a clear message that they believe in our educators and support the work they are doing,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “At a time where we see public education under attack on a national level, Council members came through for our teachers and our students.”

student says

Here’s what New York City students told top state officials about school segregation

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Students discussed attending racially isolated schools at the Board of Regents meeting.

New York state’s top policymakers are wading into a heated debate about how to integrate the state’s schools. But before they pick a course of action, they wanted to hear from their main constituents: students.

At last week’s Board of Regents meeting, policymakers invited students from Epic Theatre Ensemble, who performed a short play, and from IntegrateNYC4Me, a youth activist group, to explain what it’s like to attend racially isolated schools. New York’s drive to integrate schools is, in part, a response to a widely reported study that named the state’s schools — including those in New York City — as the most segregated in the country.

The Board of Regents has expressed interest in using the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to address this issue and released a draft diversity statement in June.

Here’s what graduating seniors told the Board about what it’s like to attend school in a segregated school system. These stories have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“I have never, ever had a white classmate.”

Throughout my years of schooling and going to school, I have never, ever had a white classmate. It’s something that now that I’m getting ready to go to college, it’s something to really think about, and I don’t think that we’re moving in the right direction. I went to the accepted student day at my college — I’m going to SUNY Purchase. I went there, and I’m being introduced into this whole new world that I never was exposed to.

It’s really a problem. I know I’m not the only one because I have family members and I spoke to some of my brothers and I’m like, “I have never encountered a white classmate in my whole life.” Just to show you how important [it is] to integrate the schools. Just so future kids don’t have to deal with that.

It wasn’t in my power for me to be able to have different classmates. I think in our school, we had one Asian girl, freshman year. She was there for literally like two days and she left so I have been limited in my school years to just African-Americans and Latinos.

So now that I’m getting ready to step out there, this is something I’ve never had to deal with. So the issue is something that’s really deep and near to my heart and now that I’m going to college I have to, you know, adapt. I’m sure it’s a whole different ball game.

— Dantae Duwhite, 18, attended the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, going to SUNY Purchase in the fall


“I saw how much of a community that school had.”

I first became involved in IntegrateNYC4me my junior year when we were having a school exchange between my school in Brooklyn [Leon M. Goldstein] and Bronx Academy of Letters.

When I went into the [school] exchange, I was really excited to see how different the other school would be. But when I got there, I saw how much of a community that school had and personally, I didn’t feel that in my school. My school is majority white and it’s just very segregated within the school, so [I liked] coming into [a different] school and seeing how much community they had and how friendly they are. They just say hi to each other in the hallways and everybody knows each other and even us. We went in and we’re like strangers and they were so welcoming to us and I know they didn’t have the same experience at our school. That really interested me and that’s how I got into the work.

If it weren’t so segregated, it could be so easy for all of us to have a welcoming community like the Bronx Letters students did.

— Julisa Perez, 18, attended Leon M. Goldstein, a screened high school in Brooklyn and will attend Brooklyn college in the fall


“They’re expected to take the same Regents, yet they’re not given the same lab equipment.” 

I also went on the exchange my junior and senior year. The first time I did it was my junior year and when I went to Bronx Letters, the first thing I noticed was how resources were allocated unfairly between our schools.

Because, at my school, we have three lab rooms:, a science lab, a chemistry lab and a physics lab. And at Bronx Letters, they never even had a lab room, they just had lab equipment. And I think it’s important to see that all New York City students are expected to meet the same state requirements. They’re expected to take the same Regents, yet they’re not given the same lab equipment and they’re not given the same resources. So I think it’s unfair to expect the same of students when they’re not given equitable resources. That is what I took away from it.

— Aneth Naranjo, 18, attended Leon M. Goldstein, will attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the fall