pulling rank

Ten top 10s from New York City’s 2014 test scores

East New York's J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin, due for closure, is one of two general education schools where no students scored proficient in math.

The city’s test scores in math and English inched up in 2014, but overall proficiency remained low after the second year of Common Core-aligned tests. But in a system with more than 1,200 elementary and middle schools, there are dozens of outliers on both sides of the performance spectrum.

Using the state’s “matched” student data, which excludes third grade and any other students who didn’t also take the exam in 2013,  we pulled out some of the highest and lowest scorers and what you need to know about why they’re there. (For unmatched city data, click here.)

Top city schools in reading proficiency:

1. Baccalaureate School for Global Education (95.77 percent)
2. The Anderson School (94.86)
3. Special Music School (94.44)
4. New Explorations into Science, Tech and Math High School (94.29)
5. I.S. 187 The Christa McAuliffe School (92.23)
6. P.S. 748 Brooklyn School for Global Scholars (92.16)
7. P.S. 77 Lower Lab School (88.89)
8. Scholars’ Academy (86.60)
9. M.S. 255 Salk School of Science (84.57)
10. NYC Lab MS For Collaborative Studies (82.16)

There are few surprises among the city’s very top performing schools. All have selective admissions and few serve English language learners, students with disabilities or poor students. Schools shuffled between top-ranked spots, but all 10 were featured on last year’s “top 22” list that the Bloomberg administration celebrated on a publicity tour.

Top high-poverty city schools in reading proficiency (80-100 percent poverty):

1. P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (75.47 percent)
2. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 2 (73.75)
3. Harlem Success Academy Charter School 5 (72.60)
4. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 1 (70.13)
5. Harlem Success Academy Charter School (61.95)
6. Magnet School of Math, Science & Design Tech (61.34)
7. All City Leadership Secondary School (60.77)
8. P.S. 124 Yung Wing (60.07)
9. P.S. 247, Brooklyn (57.64)
10. South Bronx Classical Charter School (57.14)

The city’s top-ranked list changes when poverty is taken into account. Half of the top 10 are charter schools, which admit students through a lottery, including four from the Success Academy network, which boasted English proficiency rates 35 points higher than the city average.

Other schools have drawn praise for their academic achievements for years. Mayor Bloomberg and former Chancellor Joel Klein both visited Brooklyn’s P.S. 172 on the first day of school in 2010 to tout its high test scores even in the face of higher standards.

Bottom city schools in reading proficiency (not including District 75 schools):

1. P.S. 194 Countee Cullen (0.0 percent)
2. Urban Assembly School for the Environment (0.0)
3. M.S. 203, Bronx (0.68)
4. Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (0.98)
5. Middle School for the Arts (1.22)
6. Harbor Heights (1.28)
7. P.S. 133 Fred R Moore (1.33)
8.Choir Academy of Harlem (1.61)
9. M.S. 584, Brooklyn (1.92)
10. P.S. 149 Sojourner Truth (2.16)

The statistics are grim for the worst-performing schools in the city, many of which have struggled for years and were targeted for aggressive intervention. P.S. 194 has been in danger of being closed since at least 2009 and was a target of low-level intervention again last year, as P.S. 133 in Harlem was in 2012. Some schools, like Choir Academy of Harlem and M.S. 203, will soon be closed due to low performance and the number of students taking tests at the schools is down by an average of 30 percent. One outlier is Harbor Heights, which serves English language learners and recent immigrants, many with no prior schooling.

Biggest positive change in reading proficiency rate:

1. East Village Community School (+21.67 percentage points)
2. P.S. 191 Mayflower (+19.23)
3. Academic Leadership Charter School (+19.09)
4. P.S. 42 Benjamin Altman (+18.18)
5. P.S. 108 Sal Abbracciamento (+17.78)
6. P.S. 94 David D. Porter (+15.97)
7. P.S. 198, Brooklyn (+15.94)
8. P.S. 183 Robert L. Stevenson (+14.61)
9. P.S. 79 Francis Lewis (+14.18)
10. Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice (+14.12)

Biggest negative change in reading proficiency rate:

1. P.S. 8 Shirlee Solomon (-24.00 percentage points)
2. P.S. 106, Queens (-16.92)
3. Archer Elementary School (-15.38)
4. P.S. 110 Florence Nightingale (-13.40)
5. P.S. 56 Lewis Latimer (-13.16)
6. P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep (-11.94)
7. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 2 (-11.25)
8. P.S. 169 Bay Terrace (-10.58)
9. South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and Arts (-10.39)
10. Luisa Pineiro Fuentes School of Science and Discovery (-10.19)

The biggest swings came in the early tested grades. Nineteen of the 20 schools with the biggest gains and losses were elementary schools. The lone middle school, Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, stood out for another reason: Its 14-point reading gains made it the only school from the Bronx to show such dramatic improvement.

Top city schools in math proficiency:

1. P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (98.75 percent)
2. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 2 (98.75)
3. I.S. 187 The Christa McAuliffe School (98.03)
4. Anderson School (97.62)
5. Baccalaureate School For Global Education (97.53)
6. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 1 (97.40)
7. Special Music School (96.43)
8. Harlem Success Academy Charter School 4 (95.56)
9. Harlem Success Academy Charter School 5 (94.52)
10. P.S. 748 Brooklyn School for Global Scholars (94.12)

Many of the city’s top performers in math are repeats from the list of top-performing reading schools.

Bottom city schools in math proficiency (not including District 75 schools):

1. J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin (0.00 percent)
2. M.S. 203, Bronx (0.00)
3. New Heights Middle School (0.98)
4. Middle School For The Arts (1.23)
5. Evergreen Middle School for Urban Exploration (1.36)
6. Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (1.42)
7. J.H.S. 22 Jordan L. Mott (1.57)
8. J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini (1.58)
9. Henry Street School for International Studies (1.75)
10. Knowledge and Power Prep Academy IV (1.83)

J.H.S. 166, M.S. 203, and Middle School for the Arts are being phased out for poor performance.

Top high-poverty city schools in math proficiency rate (80-100 percent poverty):

1. P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (98.75 percent)
2. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 2 (98.75)
3. Bronx Success Academy Charter School 1 (97.40)
4. Harlem Success Academy Charter School 5 (94.52)
5. Harlem Success Academy Charter School (93.08)
6. South Bronx Classical Charter School (87.96)
7. P.S. 247, Brooklyn (84.39)
8. P.S. 42 Benjamin Altman (83.33)
9. P.S. 130 Hernando de Soto (82.03)
10. P.S. 124 Yung Wing (78.80)

The Success Academy schools, South Bronx Classical, P.S. 124 and P.S. 172 are repeats. P.S. 42, P.S. 130, and P.S. 124 are all in the Lower East Side/Chinatown neighborhoods and at least 87 percent of their students are Asian, the ethnic group posting the city’s highest average test scores.

Biggest positive change in math proficiency rate:

1. Manhattan Charter School (+31.94 percentage points)
2. Democracy Prep Charter School (+27.91)
3. East Village Community School (+27.59)
4. Achievement First Endeavor Charter School (+26.56)
5. Central Queens Academy Charter School (+26.19)
6. KIPP NYC Washington Heights Academy Charter School (+25.54)
7. Harlem Link Charter School (+25.26)
8. Achievement First Brownsville Charter School (+24.55)
9. P.S. 32 Samuels Mills Sprole (+24.36)
10. Leadership Preparatory Brownsville Charter School (+24.19)

Biggest negative change in math proficiency rate:

1. P.S. 8 Shirlee Solomon (-19.20 percentage points)
2. P.S. 56 Lewis H Latimer (-15.79)
3. P.S. 29 (Queens) (-14.83)
4. Academy for Young Writers (-14.49)
5. I.S. 340, Brooklyn (-14.44)
6. Hyde Leadership Charter School – Brooklyn (-12.90)
7. P.S. 106, Queens (-12.30)
8. River East Elementary (-11.39)
9. Metropolitan Lighthouse Charter School (-10.89)
10. P.S. 25 Eubie Blake School (-10.53)

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede