charter exchange

Chancellor Fariña: Charters that emphasize testing should be an ‘option’ for parents

New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña weighed in on the mayor’s recent dust-up with charter schools, offering a more measured take on the question of whether some of the schools over-emphasize test prep.

“Look, I think parents have to have options, and if that’s an option that parents take, that’s fine,” she told Chalkbeat Wednesday in her first public comments on the clash. Charter schools “have their own process and their own way of teaching and making decisions. But parents chose those schools for that purpose.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio found himself at odds with charter school advocates last week, when he was asked at a press conference why charters outperformed district schools on recent state tests. According to an analysis by the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools, the city’s charter school students improved at almost almost double the rate in English and triple the rate in math as their counterparts in district schools.

“If that’s where they put a lot of their time and energy, of course it could yield better test scores. But we don’t think that’s good educational policy,” the mayor said. “So we have a different approach, but we think that approach is yielding better results in terms of actually teaching kids.” The next day, in an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, he reiterated his position. In both cases, he referenced the chancellor by name, implying that Fariña shared his views.

Yet the chancellor seemed reluctant to cast the same aspersions on charter schools’ test scores or to question how they achieved them. “Their process is their process,” she said.

She did raise the question, as did the mayor, of whether the schools shoulder their fair share of the city’s lower-performing students. “It has to be equitable,” she said. “They need to service the kids that we service and vice versa.”

But she was quick to mention the $18 million collaboration now underway between the city’s district and charter schools.

“We’re particularly close with Uncommon Schools,” she said, a reference to a two-year-old program that links that network of charter schools and the district schools in Brooklyn’s District 23. She also mentioned working with KIPP, which operates 11 charter schools in New York City. Both networks focus more on testing and discipline than some of the small, independent charter schools Fariña has previously endorsed.

“I think we need to learn from each other,” Fariña said, regarding the broader collaboration between district and charter schools. “They need to learn some things from us, and us from them.”

Stay tuned for Chalkbeat’s full interview with the chancellor.

ASD scores

In Tennessee’s turnaround district, 9 in 10 young students fall short on their first TNReady exams

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Nine out of 10 of elementary- and middle-school students in Tennessee’s turnaround district aren’t scoring on grade level in English and math, according to test score data released Thursday.

The news is unsurprising: The Achievement School District oversees 32 of the state’s lowest-performing schools. But it offers yet another piece of evidence that the turnaround initiative has fallen far short of its ambitious original goal of vaulting struggling schools to success.

Around 5,300 students in grades 3-8 in ASD schools took the new, harder state exam, TNReady, last spring. Here’s how many scored “below” or “approaching,” meaning they did not meet the state’s standards:

  • 91.8 percent of students in English language arts;
  • 91.5 percent in math;
  • 77.9 percent in science.

View scores for all ASD schools in our spreadsheet

In all cases, ASD schools’ scores fell short of state averages, which were all lower than in the past because of the new exam’s higher standards. About 66 percent of students statewide weren’t on grade level in English language arts, 62 percent weren’t on grade level in math, and 41 percent fell short in science.

ASD schools also performed slightly worse, on average, than the 15 elementary and middle schools in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, the district’s own initiative for low-performing schools. On average, about 89 percent of iZone students in 3-8 weren’t on grade level in English; 84 percent fell short of the state’s standards in math.

The last time that elementary and middle schools across the state received test scores, in 2015, ASD schools posted scores showing faster-than-average improvement. (Last year’s tests for grades 3-8 were canceled because of technical problems.)

The low scores released today suggest that the ASD’s successes with TCAP, the 2015 exam, did not carry over to the higher standards of TNReady.

But Verna Ruffin, the district’s new chief of academics, said the scores set a new bar for future growth and warned against comparing them to previous results.

“TNReady has more challenging questions and is based on a different, more rigorous set of expectations developed by Tennessee educators,” Ruffin said in a statement. “For the Achievement School District, this means that we will use this new baseline data to inform instructional practices and strategically meet the needs of our students and staff as we acknowledge the areas of strength and those areas for improvement.”

Some ASD schools broke the mold and posted some strong results. Humes Preparatory Middle School, for example, had nearly half of students meet or exceed the state’s standards in science, although only 7 percent of students in math and 12 percent in reading were on grade level.

Thursday’s score release also included individual high school level scores. View scores for individual schools throughout the state as part of our spreadsheet here.

Are Children Learning

School-by-school TNReady scores for 2017 are out now. See how your school performed

PHOTO: Zondra Williams/Shelby County Schools
Students at Wells Station Elementary School in Memphis hold a pep rally before the launch of state tests, which took place between April 17 and May 5 across Tennessee.

Nearly six months after Tennessee students sat down for their end-of-year exams, all of the scores are now out. State officials released the final installment Thursday, offering up detailed information about scores for each school in the state.

Only about a third of students met the state’s English standards, and performance in math was not much better, according to scores released in August.

The new data illuminates how each school fared in the ongoing shift to higher standards. Statewide, scores for students in grades 3-8, the first since last year’s TNReady exam was canceled amid technical difficulties, were lower than in the past. Scores also remained low in the second year of high school tests.

“These results show us both where we can learn from schools that are excelling and where we have specific schools or student groups that need better support to help them achieve success – so they graduate from high school with the ability to choose their path in life,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Did some schools prepare teachers and students better for the new state standards, which are similar to the Common Core? Was Memphis’s score drop distributed evenly across the city’s schools? We’ll be looking at the data today to try to answer those questions.

Check out all of the scores in our spreadsheet or on the state website and add your questions and insights in the comments.