2015 state tests

Eight top 10s from New York City’s 2015 test scores

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

The city’s state test scores continued to inch up in 2015, which meant city officials were celebrating Wednesday. Overall proficiency rates are still hovering around 30 percent in English and 35 percent in math, but in a system with more than 1,200 elementary and middle schools, there are dozens of outliers.

[Read more about this year’s test score results, and the latest opt-out tallies, here.]

We combined district and charter data to come up with the schools at the top and bottom of the proficiency spectrum, and also looked at what schools saw the most change by comparing each school’s average scale score from 2014 and 2015. (We chose to look at scale scores, rather than proficiency rates, when looking for big changes this year in order to capture shifts that might not have pushed students across the threshold between levels 2 and 3, but are still notable.)

Top city schools in English proficiency:

1. Baccalaureate School for Global Education (98.1 percent proficient)
2. The Anderson School (96.3)
3. I.S. 187 The Christa McAuliffe School (95.2)
4. New Explorations into Science, Tech and Math High School (93.6)
5. M.S. 255 Salk School of Science (91.2)
6. Scholars’ Academy (91.0)
7. P.S. 77 Lower Lab School (90.9)
8. East Side Middle School (88.5)
9. The 30th Avenue School (88.0)
10. Special Music School (88.0)

There aren’t many surprises on this list. All have selective admissions processes, and some are city-wide gifted and talented schools. Few serve many English language learners or students with disabilities and all have been top performers in prior years.

Bottom city schools in English proficiency:

1. The School for the Urban Environment (0 percent proficient)
2. Harbor Heights (0)
3. Choir Academy of Harlem (0)
4. Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts (0)
5. I.S. 219 New Venture School (1.1)
6. Fairmont Neighborhood School (1.5)
7. Essence School (1.6)
8. P.S. 19 Roberto Clemente (2.1)
9. I.S. 206 Ann Mersereau (2.4)
10. M.S. 596 Peace Academy (2.4)

The statistics are grim for the worst-performing schools in the city, many of which have struggled for years. Four of the schools are part of the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program — Wadleigh, New Venture, Essence, and Peace Academy — and five tested fewer than 50 students last year. Choir Academy of Harlem will close in 2016 due to low performance, and P.S. 19 Roberto Clemente was phased out this past spring. One outlier is Harbor Heights, which serves many English language learners and recent immigrants, many with no prior schooling.

Top city schools in math proficiency:

1. Baccalaureate School For Global Education (100 percent)
2. Success Academy Charter School – Bed-Stuy 1 (99.3)
3. Success Academy Charter School – Williamsburg (98.7)
4. P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (98.3)
5. Success Academy Charter School – Upper West (98.2)
6. The Anderson School (97.9)
7. I.S. 187 The Christa McAuliffe School (97.5)
8. Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 4 (96.4)
9. New Explorations into Science, Tech and Math High School (96.4)
10. Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 2 (96.3)

Half of the city’s top performers in math are repeats from the list of top-performing reading schools. The other half are Success Academy charter schools, which are known for their high test scores.

Bottom city schools in math proficiency:

1. Choir Academy of Harlem (0.0 percent)
2. Life Science Secondary School (0.0)
3. Academy for Social Action: A College Board School (0.0)
4. Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts (0.0)
5. General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science (0.0)
6. Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (0.8)
7. East Fordham Academy for the Arts (0.9)
8. I.S. 219 New Venture School (1.0)
9. New Directions Secondary School (1.1)
10. Lyons Community School (1.2)

Three of these are Renewal schools: Wadleigh, New Venture, and Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence. General D. Chappie James was phased out this spring, as was Academy for Social Action, and Choir Academy is set to close.

Biggest positive change in English scores:

1. P.S. 971 School of Math, Science and Healthy Living (+9.9 percent)
2. P.S. 261 Philip Livingston (+6.6%)
3. P.S. 102 Jacques Cartier (+5.9%)
4. Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (+5.8%)
4. Teaching Firms of America – Professional Preparatory Charter School (+5.8%)
6. P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche (+5.4%)
6. Imagine Me Leadership Charter School (+5.4%)
8. P.S. 190 Sheffield (+5.3%)
8. East Harlem Scholars Academy Charter School (+5.3%)
10. P.S. 452 in Manhattan (+5.1%)

P.S. 971 opened in 2010 in a new building in Sunset Park, and P.S. 261 is a popular elementary school in Brooklyn’s District 15. Brownsville Collaborative was cited by the Daily News earlier this year for having only one of 106 students pass state reading exams in 2014, while the school-review site Insideschools called Ralph Bunche a “school to watch” a few months ago, noting its improvement under Principal Reginald Higgins.

Biggest negative change in English scores:

1. Riverdale Avenue Community School (-6.8%)
2. P.S. 106 in Queens (-6.7%)
3. The Fresh Creek School (-5.2%)
4. P.S. 40 George W. Carver (-5.1%)
5. General D. Chappie James Elementary School of Science (-4.9%)
6. P.S. 51 Bronx New School (-4.5%)
7. Urban Science Academy (-4%)
7. Great Oaks Charter School (-4%)
9. P.S. 54 Samuel C. Barnes (-3.9%)
9. STEM Institute of Manhattan (-3.9%)

Riverdale Avenue Community School in Brownsville saw a high percentage of students opt out of the tests this year. P.S. 106 became better known as the “School of No” this year after the New York Post ran a series of stories about its often-absent principal (who was since removed). Urban Science Academy is in the city’s Renewal program.

Biggest positive change in math scores:

1. School of Math, Science, and Healthy Living (+8.1%)
2. P.S. 212 in the Bronx (+6.3%)
2. Imagine Me Leadership Charter School (+6.3%)
4. Academy of the City Charter School (+6.2%)
5. Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School (+6.1%)
6. P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott (+5.6%)
7. P.S. 102 Jacques Cartier (+4.8%)
8. Unity Prep Charter School (+4.7%)
9. Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (+4.6%)
9. P.S. 330 in Queens (+4.6%)

Medgar Evers College Preparatory is run by Michael Wiltshire, the principal also doing the high-profile job of improving the troubled Boys and Girls High School. P.S. 215 has phased out, and P.S. 330 is new and growing.

Biggest negative change in math scores:

1. STEM Institute of Manhattan (-7.7%)
2. General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science (-7.3%)
3. Harlem Link Charter School (-6.4%)
4. I.S. M286 Renaissance Leadership Academy (-5.8%)
5. Explore Charter School (-5%)
6. The UFT Charter School (-4.5%)
6. Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Academy: A College Board School (-4.5%)
8. Lyons Community School (-4.4%)
9. Explore Empower Charter School (-4.3%)
10. Invictus Preparatory Charter School (-4.2%)
10. P.S. 51 Bronx New School (-4.2%)

The UFT Charter School closed its elementary and middle schools this spring, while Lyons, Chappie, and the Bronx’s P.S. 51 are repeats from the reading list.

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