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.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.