There's an AP for that

More New York City students are taking AP exams, though racial gaps persist

Students take an AP exam at Bronx Science, one of the city's specialized high schools.

More New York City students than ever are taking and passing Advanced Placement exams, according to statistics released Tuesday by the education department, which added new AP classes at dozens of schools last year as part Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to make advanced courses available to more students.

The number of students who took at least one AP test in 2017 increased by 4,458 students citywide — a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Just over 1,800 additional students passed at least one AP exam, a 7.5 percent increase. In all, about one-third of the most recent graduating class took an AP exam, with 18 percent passing at least one of them.

“For too long, our students’ access to AP courses has been dictated by their zip code,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We are making the investments to right that wrong, and to ensure that every kid has access to the challenging courses they need to be ready for college and careers.”

While white and Asian students are still more likely to take AP exams, test-taking increased among all racial groups this year. However, even as more black and Hispanic students took the exams, the proportion of those who passed actually shrank — widening the pass-rate gap between them and their white and Asian peers.

The number of Hispanic students who took at least one AP exam in 2017 increased by 13.2 percent — more than any other racial or ethnic group. But the proportion of those students who passed at least one exam decreased nearly 4 percentage points from 47.2 to 43.5 percent. Participation among black students grew by 9 percent, but their pass rate dipped slightly from 27.8 to 27.1 percent.

White and Asian students, by contrast, saw both participation and pass rates increase. Roughly 66 percent of white test takers passed at least one exam, while 67 percent of Asian students did — a small increase for both groups.

The education department acknowledged some of those racial disparities in its press release, noting that “the city is moving to address these inequities with the Equity and Excellence for All agenda, including AP for All and Computer Science for All.”

An education department spokesman also pointed out that the overall number of black and Hispanic students taking and passing the exams has gone up.

“This is significant progress, and we hope to build on both the performance and participation increases going forward,” said spokesman Will Mantell.

While more students were beginning to take and pass AP exams before de Blasio’s tenure, he has made greater access to advanced courses a signature part of his education agenda. In 2015, he announced “AP for All,” a program designed to boost the number of AP classes in schools — especially those with low-income students of color who remain less likely to take advanced courses.

A 2015 report by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School found that more than half the city’s high schools did not offer a single AP course in math and about half did not offer an AP course in science. Currently, about 400 of the city’s roughly 500 high schools offer at least one AP class, according to the city’s education department, an increase of roughly 30 schools over the past year.

As part of AP for All, the city set a goal of that 75 percent of students will be offered at least five AP classes by fall 2018, with all students covered by 2021. As of last school year, 58 percent of high school students had access to at least five AP courses, officials said.

De Blasio has also pushed for more computer science courses, promising all schools citywide will have at least one offering by 2025. The number of students taking an AP computer science exam more than doubled to 3,966 students this year, officials said. Some 71 percent of those students passed — a 13-point increase over last year.

breaking

A student is in custody after Noblesville West Middle School shooting that injured another student and teacher

Police asses the scene outside Noblesville High School after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, 2018 (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

A male student shot and injured a teacher and another student at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday morning, police said.

Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the shooting suspect asked to leave a class and returned armed with two handguns. The suspect, who police said appeared to be uninjured, is in custody and has not been identified by police.

The teacher, 29-year-old Jason Seaman, was in “good” condition Friday evening at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, police said. The female student, who was not identified by police, was in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children.

News outlets were reporting that Seaman intervened to stop the shooter, but authorities said they could not confirm that on Friday afternoon.

The Noblesville Police Department has a full-time school resource officer assigned to the school who responded to the incident, Jowitt said. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also responded to the shooting.

“We do know that the situation resolved extremely quickly,” Jowitt said. “We don’t know what happened in the classroom, so I can’t make any kinds of comments about what [the resource officer’s] involvement was.”

Students were evacuated to Noblesville High School on Friday morning, where families met them.

Jowitt said an additional threat was made at the high school, but they had “no reason to believe it’s anything other than a communicated threat.”

Police continue to investigate. They said they do not believe there are additional suspects. Noblesville Police spokesman Bruce Barnes could not say how the student acquired the guns, but he said search warrants have been issued.

Noblesville West Middle School enrolls about 1,300 students. Noblesville is a suburb of Indianapolis, about 20 miles north in Hamilton County. The district has about 10,500 students.

The frenzied scenes Friday outside the school have become sadly familiar. Already, there have been 23 school shootings in 2018 that involved someone being injured or killed, according to media tallies.

Just last week, 10 people were killed and 13 others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. A student at the school has been arrested and charged.

In February, 17 people — 14 students and three staff — were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a 19-year-old faces multiple charges.  The Parkland tragedy set off a wave of student activism across the country — including in Indianapolis — calling for stricter gun control.

“We’ve had these shootings around the country,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “You just never think it could happen in Noblesville, Indiana. But it did.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer praised the “heroic” efforts of school staff and students, saying they followed their training on how to react to an active shooter situation.

Barnes also hinted at the broader trauma that school shootings can have on students and communities.

“We ask for your prayers for the victims in this case,” he said. “I think that would include a lot of kids, not only ones that were truly the victims in this case, but all these other kids that are trying to make sense of this situation.”

Watch the press conference:


A Chalkbeat reporter is on the scene:

In a pattern that has become routine, Democratic and Republican politicians offered prayers on Twitter.

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”