By the numbers

Eight top 10 lists from New York City’s 2017 state test scores

PHOTO: Shannan Muskopf via Flickr

Test scores in New York City continued their upward march this year, with small gains in average English and math scores — a cause for celebration among city officials.

Unlike last year’s scores, which came with an asterisk because of significant changes to the tests themselves, state officials said the latest round of scores show real progress. Still, most of the city’s students are still not proficient in English or math.

In the lists below, we take a closer look at which schools had the largest and smallest shares of students considered proficient on the two tests, meaning they scored 3 or 4. And we reveal which schools had the biggest positive or negative percentage changes in their scale scores over the previous year. 

These lists are no doubt affected by outside factors — such as whether a school added or dropped grades in the past year, or whether they had a high percentage of students opting out of state tests.

A note on methodology: We used percentage change in average scale scores for the bottom four lists — rather than proficiency rates — in order to capture shifts that might not have pushed students above or below the proficiency threshold, but are still noteworthy. Due to schools with tied scores, we removed numerical rankings and just provided percentages.

For a more complete look at how all schools performed on the tests, check out our new database.

Top city schools in English proficiency

  • The Academy for Excellence through the Arts (100 percent proficient)
  • Special Music School (100)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bergen Beach (100)
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education (99.5)
  • P.S. 77 Lower Lab School  (99.4)
  • New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School (97.2)
  • P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (96.6)
  • P.S. 334 The Anderson School (96.2)
  • Professional Performing Arts High School (95.7)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights 1 (95)

Most schools on this list screen students for admission. Two (NEST+m and the Anderson School) are citywide gifted schools that serve students who score in the very highest percentiles of the gifted test. P.S. 77 Lower Lab School only serves gifted students and Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens screens students; some of the others require auditions. It’s worth noting that the Academy for Excellence Through the Arts (which also appears on the list of top schools in math proficiency) only serves students through third grade. While the Success Academy schools admit through a lottery, the two schools on this list have two percent or fewer English language learners — compared to 13.4 percent in schools citywide.

Bottom city schools in English proficiency

  • Academy for New Americans (1.1 percent proficient)
  • New Directions Secondary School (2.4)
  • P.S. 150 Christopher (4.8)
  • Essence School (5)
  • Harbor Heights (5)
  • J.H.S 145 Arturo Toscanini (5.1)
  • P.S. 112 Bronxwood (5.5)
  • Urban Science Academy (5.8)
  • M.S. 584 – Brooklyn (7 percent)
  • Fairmont Neighborhood School (7.3)

All of these schools serve high-need populations. The Academy for New Americans and Harbor Heights are both geared toward newly arrived immigrants, who may have had limited formal schooling in their home countries. Urban Science Academy and P.S. 112 Bronxwood are part of the city’s Renewal turnaround program. So were M.S. 584, Essence School and J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini, all of which closed this year.

Top city schools in math proficiency

  • The Academy for Excellence Through the Arts (100 percent proficient)
  • Special Music School (100)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Rosedale (100)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Washington Heights (100)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights (99.3)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Hell’s Kitchen (99.3)
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education (99.1)
  • Success Academy – Bed Stuy 1 (99)
  • P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (98.8)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bed Stuy 2 (98.7)

Success Academy took six of the top 10 spots in math proficiency, just one fewer than last year. The charter network is known for its high test scores and CEO Eva Moskowitz recently held a press conference to contrast them with the city’s at large. While Success Academy admits students through a lottery, the Special Music School in Manhattan requires an audition and the Baccalaureate School for Global Education is screened.

Bottom city schools in math proficiency

  • Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School (0 percent)
  • M.S. 584 – Brooklyn (0 percent)
  • Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts (0 percent)
  • Lyons Community School (.7 percent)
  • New Directions Secondary School (1.2 percent)
  • Opportunity Charter School (1.7 percent)
  • The Hunts Point School (1.8 percent)
  • East Fordham Academy For the Arts (2 percent)
  • KAPPA IV (2.1 percent)
  • Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (2.4 percent)

Many of these schools serve high-need students and have a history of low scores. Six schools on this list also appeared on last year’s, including Lyons Community School, which Chalkbeat wrote about as part of a series on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s track record on education. New Directions Secondary School is for students who have fallen behind in middle school. Opportunity Charter School serves a large percentage of students with disabilities; the city has pushed to close its middle school for poor performance. The Hunts Point School is one of the city’s Renewal schools, as was M.S. 584 before it closed.

Biggest positive percentage change in English scale scores

  • P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente (5.1 percent)
  • P.S. 110 – Queens (5.1 percent)
  • Lucero Elementary School (5 percent)
  • The Boerum Hill School for International Studies (4.9)
  • Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (4.9)
  • School for Democracy and Leadership (4.5)
  • P.S. 92 Mary McLeod Bethune (4.5)
  • P.S. 213 New Lots (4.3)
  • Brooklyn Environmental Exploration School (4.2)
  • The 47 American Sign Language and English Lower School (4.2)

Many of the most improved schools have recently taken on curriculum changes or new approaches to discipline, according to educational plans filed with the city’s Department of Education. For example, District 1 was the recipient of a state grant to integrate schools, and that grant has been used to change instruction at Roberto Clemente to a more progressive model. Clemente, which serves largely Hispanic and poor students, is also a Renewal school. Meanwhile, School for Democracy and Leadership in Brooklyn, which has been known for suspending an outsize number of students, has turned to restorative discipline practices.

Biggest negative percentage change in English scale scores

  • Institute for Collaborative Education (-6.9 percent)
  • P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair (-6.9)
  • P.S. 132 The Conselyea School (-4.8)
  • Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School (-4.2)
  • Family Life Academy Charter School II (-4)
  • Success Academy – Union Square (-4)
  • Hamilton Heights School (-3.8)
  • P.S. 23 Carter G. Woodson (-3.7)
  • Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem (-3.7)
  • The Brooklyn New School P.S. 146 (-3.7)

P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair in Brooklyn, which dropped nearly 7 percentage points, saw the biggest positive changes in English and math scale scores last year, when scores across the city spiked after dramatic changes were made to the state tests. That school and others on this list have high opt-out rates, which could have impacted their rankings.

Biggest positive percentage change in math scale scores

  • P.S. 110 – Queens (10.7 percent)
  • Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School (8.9)
  • P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente (7.3)
  • The Academy for Excellence Through the Arts (7.3)
  • Lucero Elementary School (7.1)
  • The Walton Avenue School (7)
  • Dr. Jacqueline Peek-Davis School (6.8)
  • P.S. 40 George W. Carver (6.3)
  • River East Elementary (6.1)
  • P.S. 30 Wilton (6)

This list contains an entirely new set of schools from last year. Several, including P.S. 110, Lucero Elementary School, and the Walton Avenue School, are fairly new and have been expanding. (Lucero and Walton Avenue share a school building.) The Walton Avenue School has taken a new approach to teaching math, with teachers who specialize exclusively in the subject.

Biggest negative percentage change in math scale scores

  • M.S. 584 – Brooklyn (-8.6 percent)
  • M.S. 35 (-6.6)
  • Citizens of the World Charter School – Crown Heights (-6.5)
  • P.S. 32 Belmont (-6.1)
  • P.S. 241 Emma L Johnston (-5.7)
  • P.S. 5 Ronald McNair (-5.6)
  • Citizens of the World Charter School – Williamsburg (-5.4)
  • Earth School (-5.4)
  • M.S. 61 Dr. Gladstone Atwell (-5.3)
  • P.S. 325 (-5.1)

The greatest decline on this list was at M.S. 584, a Renewal school that closed this year. Both of the city’s Citizens of the World Charter Schools, which opened in 2013 as part of network based in California, lost ground this year. Earth School in the East Village is another school with a high percentage of opt-outs, with a majority of students sitting out at least one of the tests.

This analysis was conducted by Chalkbeat’s Chris Hickerson, with research assistance from Chalkbeat New York.

new use

Committee picks Denver Language School to use building vacated by shuttered elementary

PHOTO: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post
Teacher Yu-Hsin Lien helps her third-grade students with classwork at the Denver Language School.

A charter middle school that immerses students in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese would occupy the northeast Denver building of an elementary school shuttered for low performance if the school board follows a committee recommendation made public Friday.

Denver Language School serves more than 700 students from across the city in kindergarten through eighth grade, although the recommendation is only for the upper grades. The school was one of seven that applied to use the building previously occupied by Gilpin Montessori elementary school in the Five Points neighborhood.

With real estate for schools scarce in Denver, the recommendation represents a win for the Denver Language School and a nod to some of the district’s priorities, including rewarding highly rated schools and collaborating with charters.

A committee of community members and Denver Public Schools employees tasked with reviewing potential occupants is recommending placing the charter’s fourth through eighth grades there next year while the school’s current building in east Denver is being renovated. After that, the recommendation is for the fifth through eighth grades to be housed at Gilpin.

In a letter to the community (read it below), the committee cited Denver Language School’s “high academic performance” and “track record of strong enrollment” among the reasons they chose it. The school has for the past two years been rated “green,” the district’s second-highest rating.

Because of the language immersion model, few new students enroll after kindergarten, which means the middle school wouldn’t draw many students away from neighborhood schools, the letter says, a concern voiced by some community members.

Denver Language School would pay the district to use the building. In a gentrifying city where real estate prices have been steadily increasing and the number of school buildings is limited, securing an affordable location is one of the biggest hurdles charters face.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg received the recommendation earlier this week. He is expected on Dec. 18 to make his recommendation to the school board, which is set to vote Dec. 21.

The school board voted last year to close Gilpin Montessori despite community opposition. This year, the building housed several programs serving students with special needs while the district decided on a long term occupant. The district’s criteria for that occupant were that it be a currently operating or previously approved secondary school with 600 students or fewer.

Denver Language School opened in 2010. Last year, it served about 300 students in grades five through eight. The letter says the school expects to enroll 365 students in those grades in future years, which means it would not fill the entire 600-student-capacity Gilpin building.

“In the future, we will revisit options for using the rest of the building,” the letter says.

The committee also noted the diversity of Denver Language School’s students as a positive. Last year, about 48 percent of students were children of color and 19 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, a proxy for poverty. Both percentages are below district averages.

The committee included four community members and five Denver Public Schools employees. They met privately five times over the course of two and a half weeks to come up with their recommendation. The district also hosted several forums to gather community feedback.

The committee members were:

  • Evelyn Barnes, parent of two students and aide to city council president Albus Brooks
  • John Hayden, president of the Curtis Park Neighbors neighborhood association
  • Katherine Murphy, parent of a former Gilpin student and a Curtis Park resident
  • Maggie Miller, member of the city’s Slot Home Task Force and a Five Points resident
  • Joe Amundsen, DPS’s associate director of school design and intensive support
  • Liz Mendez, DPS’s director of operations support services
  • Maya Lagana, DPS’s senior director of portfolio management
  • Sara Baris, DPS’s senior manager of planning and analysis
  • Shontel Lewis, DPS’s manager of public affairs

The other schools that applied included one district-run alternative high school, Compassion Road Academy, and five other charter schools: The Boys School, Colorado High School Charter GES, Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, 5280 High School and The CUBE. The last two schools have been approved by the district but are not yet open.

Read a letter the district sent to the Gilpin community below.

Indiana graduation pathways

Parents and educators worry about how new graduation rules will affect students with disabilities

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

In the wake of a wildly unpopular decision to change Indiana’s high school graduation rules, state officials must grapple with how to actually implement the plan — and students with disabilities could face more challenges following those rules than their peers.

Called graduation pathways, the goal was to ensure students are ready for life after high school, but the recommendations are complex. The system seems to overlap with existing Indiana diploma requirements and also requires additional criteria such as exams, completing advanced courses, or gaining credit for internships.

But there are no guidelines around, for example, what kinds of internships or community service programs would count for graduation, what kinds of supports and accommodations would be in place for students with disabilities or how the pathways would function alongside a student’s needs for special services and therapies.

The potential for these challenges was not lost on the dozens of parents and educators who tried to convince state officials last week to rethink the plan. Most of the people who commented publicly and many who sent emails to the state education department mentioned concerns about students with special needs being able to meet the new demands.

Stacey Brewer, a principal in Yorktown, talked about her own child, a 6-year-old with autism, when she addressed the Indiana State Board of Education.

“There is a very real chance that my child with autism will never be able to accomplish” parts of the graduation pathways plan that go beyond what’s required by the state’s general diploma, Brewer said. The state is “not weighing out the disastrous impact” the plan would have on students.

As she finished her passionate testimony, she walked back to her seat to energetic applause from the packed auditorium. Many with similar stories and sentiments spoke after her.

J.T. Coopman, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents said before Indiana can create graduation pathways, it needs to figure out what’s happening with its diplomas — a related issue that has vexed parents and educators ever since the federal government announced it would no longer count Indiana’s general diploma in the graduation rate the state reports. The move could exclude about 12 percent of Hoosier high schoolers from being considered graduates.

Indiana has four diplomas: The standard Core 40 diploma, a general diploma with fewer requirements, and two honors diplomas, one for academics and another for career and technical education. Most students in the state earn a Core 40.

“Don’t we need to fix the diploma statute to better serve all Indiana students before we embark on a new, untested direction for our graduates?” Coopman said.

Not all of the feedback was negative. Mary Roberson, a superintendent in Perry County, said she supported the graduation pathways plan overall, and that her district was already having students with disabilities pursue internships, where they’ve been successful.

In a newsletter sent out last week, Pam Wright, director of special education for the Indiana Department of Education, said policymakers and educators need to remember that all students with disabilities are not the same and have different needs and abilities. Some might struggle to meet the pathways requirements, but others might not.

“It is my hope that as other debates occur during this legislative session, the one-size-fits-all disability myth continues to be debunked,” Wright said in the newsletter. “Yes, definitely, students with disabilities need to be considered in any public policy change, but the uniqueness of each student’s capabilities should not be lost in the debate.”

Only about 17 percent of students with disabilities don’t earn a high school diploma, and almost half earn the state’s standard Core 40 diploma or an honors diploma.

Conversations about pathways, both as they relate to special education and to a variety of other topics, are just getting started. The pathways committee said it would continue to meet to address whether Indiana should create a single statewide diploma and how graduation waivers work in the new system.

Indiana law allows for a graduation waiver if students fail to meet pathway requirements, but the waivers are controversial, and schools are sometimes hesitant to award them. Supporters say they give opportunities to students who might face specific challenges, but critics believe the waivers give students a free pass and don’t ensure they leave high school with adequate skills.

No additional committee meetings have been scheduled at this time.

Students with significant cognitive disabilities — generally about 1 percent of students across the state — wouldn’t be affected by the pathways plan. They typically don’t earn high school diplomas, instead they receive a certificate of completion, a credential that until recently showed employers or educators little else besides that a student physically attended school. (It has since been expanded and updated to include more course suggestions and academic structure.)

Last week wasn’t the first time special education advocates came out in full force to challenge state officials on policy that could be detrimental to students with disabilities. Several diploma-related topics have garnered considerable attention, such as when the state attempted to overhaul diplomas in 2015.

The next year, when lawmakers passed legislation to ensure all schools offered students a chance to earn any state diplomas, educators, parents and other community advocates were there testifying to lawmakers, too. And as recently as last year, when an early version of a bill would have killed the general diploma, the language was amended out after pressure from the special education community.

Often, these graduation policy changes are sparked by a call for students to meet higher standards demanded either by employers or higher education. But Kim Dodson, executive director for the Arc of Indiana, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities, said focusing on raising the academic bar distracts from the very real problems policies like the current graduation pathways plan could present to students with special needs.

“Most of the time, when students fall short of their expectations, it’s not because the bar wasn’t set high enough,” Dodson said. “It’s because they didn’t have the resources and accommodations they needed to be fully successful.”