pencils down

See which New York City schools posted the highest and lowest 2018 test scores

PHOTO: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Across New York City’s vast school system, some schools are packed with top performers while others enroll mostly those who struggle.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has vowed to tackle the school system’s stark inequities, and this year’s state test results — which were released Wednesday — provide a baseline against which to measure his progress.

Changes to the annual exams in math and English mean scores can’t be compared to previous years to gauge student progress. But with the test expected to remain constant for the next few years, the latest round of results set a benchmark.

Find out how well your New York City school scored on state tests. 

That timing also coincides with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most high-profile education initiative: Universal pre-K. Next year, the city’s inaugural class of pre-K students will be in third grade and sit for state exams, and de Blasio hopes the city’s investment in free early childhood education will pay dividends.

When it comes to the schools with the highest and lowest share of students scoring “proficient” on state exams this year in New York City, there are hardly any surprises on the lists that follow.

Many city schools only admit students based on their academic performance, with the most selective schools posting top test scores. Those that serve disproportionately needy students — those who are poor, have special needs, or are learning English as a new language — tend to fall to the bottom of the list. Aside from how selective a school is or its student makeup, these results could also be skewed by how many students refused to take the exams.

Top math scores

  • Special Music School (100%)
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education (100%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bergen Beach (100%)
  • P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (100%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 2 (99.5%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 1 (99.5%)
  • Success Academy Hell’s Kitchen – Manhattan 2 (99.4%)
  • Success Academy Union Square – Manhattan 1 (99%)
  • P.S. 77 Lower Lab School (98.9%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bensonhurst (98.9%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Williamsburg (98.7%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Cobble Hill (98.6%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 4  (98.6%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 4 (98.5%)
  • Success Academy Crown Heights – Brooklyn 7 (98.5%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Washington Heights (98.5%)
  • South Bronx Classical Charter School III (98.5%)
  • Success Academy Fort Greene – Brooklyn 5 (98.4%)
  • Tag Young Scholars (98.3%)
  • Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 3 (98.3%)

The district schools on this list are among the most selective in the city. Tag Young Scholars is a citywide gifted school, meaning it only accepts students with top scores on the standard gifted and talented test. But many of the highest-performing schools are charters in the Success Academy network, New York City’s largest. The network is known for its stratospheric test scores, despite enrolling mostly students from low-income families. (Critics, however, say the network pushes out students who are hardest to serve.)

Bottom math scores

  • Teachers Preparatory High School (0%)
  • New Directions (0%)
  • P.S./I.S. 224 (2.1%)
  • Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration (3.3%)
  • School of the Future Brooklyn (3.9%)
  • KAPPA IV (4.2%)
  • Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School (4.5%)
  • Academy of Public Relations (4.8%)
  • I.S. 584 (5%)
  • J.H.S. 151 Lou Gehrig (5.3%)
  • Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts (5.4%)
  • East Fordham Academy for the Arts (5.4%)

These schools enroll mostly students who are more challenging to serve, including many who are learning English as a new language or who have special needs. KAAPA IV was closed this year by the city. I.S. 584 reopened in the place of J.H.S. Lola Rodriguez de Tio, which the city closed under threat of state takeover. Fannie Lou Hamer is in the city’s Renewal program, which infuses schools with extra resources in an effort to turn them around.

Top English scores

  • P.S. 77 Lower Lab School (100%)
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education (98.9%)
  • Special Music School (98.7%)
  • The 30th Avenue School (G&T Citywide) (98.1%)
  • New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math (97.5%)
  • The Anderson School (97.4%)
  • The Academy for Excellence through the Arts (97.1%)
  • Success Academy Hell’s Kitchen – Manhattan 2 (96.6%)
  • Tag Young Scholars (96.3%)
  • East Side Middle School (95.7%)

Just like the top math schools, most on this list screen students based on their academic performance. The Anderson School and The 30th Avenue School enroll students with the highest scores on gifted and talented tests. P.S. 77 exclusively serves gifted students as well. Success Academy admits students through a lottery, but the Hell’s Kitchen school serves a smaller percentage of students who are learning English as a new language or are economically needy than the city average, according to city figures.

Bottom English scores

  • Academy for New Americans (0%)
  • New Directions Secondary School (5.6%)
  • Harbor Heights (6.5%)
  • P.S. 150 Christopher (9.3%)
  • Teachers Preparatory High School (9.3%)
  • Community Math & Science Prep (10.4%)
  • School of the Future Brooklyn (11%)
  • The Hunts Point School (11.1%)
  • I.S. 206 Ann Mersereau (11.2%)
  • P.S. 111 Jacob Blackwell (12.1%)

Once again, these schools serve mostly needy students. Academy for New Americans caters to recently arrived immigrants who are learning English as a new language. Harbor Heights also enrolls many newcomers, including students who had limited or interrupted formal education in their home countries. New Directions serves students who have fallen behind in middle or high school. P.S. 111 and The Hunts Point School are in the city’s Renewal program.

making the rounds

Tennessee’s new education chief ‘very confident’ that online testing will be smooth in April

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Tennessee's new education commissioner Penny Schwinn (second from left) met with Douglass High School students and Shelby County Schools leaders Friday.

As Tennessee’s new education commissioner wrapped up her second week on the job by visiting four schools in Shelby County, Penny Schwinn said she feels “very confident” the state has learned from its mistakes in online testing.

During the more than three-hour ride to Memphis on Friday, Schwinn said she continued to pore over documents showing evidence that the corrections the state department staff have put in place will work.

“I feel very confident that our team has looked into that,” she told reporters in a press conference after meeting with students. “They’re working with the vendor to ensure that testing is as smooth as possible this year.” Currently the state is working with Questar, who administered TNReady online last year.

She also said the state’s request for proposals from testing vendors, which is already months behind, will be released in about two weeks.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: John Bush, principal of Douglass High School; Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Education Commissioner; and Joris Ray, interim superintendent for Shelby County Schools.

“No later than that,” she said. “We hope and expect to have a vendor in place before the end of the fiscal year,” in late June.

The day Schwinn was hired, she said getting state testing right would be her first priority. Three years of major technical failures have severely damaged the trust educators and parents have in the state’s test, TNReady. It is the main measure of how schools and teachers are doing, but state lawmakers exempted districts from most testing consequences in 2018.

From Schwinn’s first day on the job: Tennessee’s new education chief wants to ‘listen and learn’ with school visits

Prior to talking with reporters, Schwinn said she heard “hard-hitting questions” from several students at Douglass High School in Memphis about what the state can do to improve education. Schwinn has said she will visit Tennessee schools throughout her tenure to ‘listen and learn’ by talking to students and educators.

Reporters were not allowed to attend the student discussion with Schwinn and some Shelby County Schools leaders.

Douglass High entered Shelby County Schools’ turnaround program, known as the iZone, in 2016 and saw high academic growth in its first year. But test scores fell this past year as the state wrestled with online malfunctions.

Timmy Becton Jr., a senior at Douglass High, said he hopes for fewer tests and more projects to demonstrate what a student has learned. Those kind of assessments, he said, can help a student connect what they are learning to their daily life.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Tennessee’s new education commissioner met with students at Douglass High School and Shelby County Schools leaders.

“We figured it would be a different way to measure and see how much knowledge a student really has on a specific subject,” he told Chalkbeat after meeting with Schwinn during a student roundtable session. “It’s a good alternative to taking tests.”

He said he was “surprised and happy” to see Schwinn actively seek student perspectives.

“I really think that’s the most important part because students are the ones going to school every day,” Becton said. “So, if you want to find a good perspective on how to solve a problem, it’s really great to talk to the people who are actively involved in it and the people who are actually experiencing these problems directly.”

The state’s annual testing window runs from April 15 to May 3.

School discipline

Michigan schools have expelled fewer students, but that may not be cause for celebration

PHOTO: Getty Images

Michigan schools have expelled far fewer students since the state enacted laws aimed at cutting back on expulsions. But an advocate who’s pushed for an end to zero-tolerance policies pointed out persistent problems and told elected state education leaders this week that, “We shouldn’t start celebrating yet.”

This is why: Peri Stone-Palmquist, executive director of the Ypsilanti-based Student Advocacy Center, told State Board of Education members that in the 18 months since the new laws took effect in 2017, expulsions have dropped 12 percent. But she’s concerned that too many school leaders don’t understand the law or are ignoring its requirements. And she believes some schools are finding other ways of kicking kids out of school without expelling them.

Michigan did away with zero-tolerance policies that had earned it a reputation for having some of the toughest disciplinary rules in the nation. In their place, lawmakers instituted new rules, such as requiring schools to consider seven factors — including a student’s age, disciplinary record, disability and seriousness of the incident — in making expulsion decisions.

“We have had districts and charters tell advocates that they would not consider the seven factors at all,” Stone-Palmquist said. Others aren’t sharing with parents and students how those seven factors were used. And she said there’s a general “lack of understanding of lesser interventions and the persistent belief that lengthy removals remain necessary.”

That’s a problem, she and others say, because of the negative consequences of kicking students out of school. Studies have shown that students kicked out of school are often missing out on an education and are more likely to get into trouble. Advocates also worry that expulsion exacerbates what they describe as a “school-to-prison” pipeline.

She said advocates are noticing that more students are receiving long suspensions, an indication that some schools are suspending students rather than expelling them. Hiding students in suspension data won’t work much longer, though. Michigan now requires schools to collect such data, which soon will be public.

Stone-Palmquist also said that some schools aren’t even going through the expulsion process, but simply referring students with discipline issues to “understaffed virtual settings.”

“Once again, the students who need the most get the least, and no one has to report it as an expulsion.”

Stone-Palmquist gave an example of a ninth-grader involved in a verbal altercation who was expelled for a long time for persistent disobedience, “despite our team lining up extensive community resources for him and despite the district never trying positive interventions with him.”

In another case, a fifth-grader was expelled for 180 days for spitting at another student who had done the same to them first. Stone-Palmquist said the seven factors weren’t considered.

“We were told at the appeal hearing that the student’s behaviors were too dangerous to consider lesser interventions.”

She and Kristin Totten, an education lawyer for the ACLU of Michigan, provided board members with statistics that some members found alarming. Totten noted that an ACLU review of data collected by the federal government shows that for every 100 students in Michigan, 38 days are lost due to suspension. In Oakland County, 26 days are lost for every 100 students. In Macomb County, it’s 35 days and in Wayne County, it’s 55 days.

One child who’s experienced trauma for years was repeatedly suspended from multiple schools. The 11-year-old has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This school year, she’s been suspended for 94 days.

“Never once were the seven factors mentioned to her mother,” Totten said.

Stone-Palmquist asked board members to consider recommendations, including developing a model student code of conduct that incorporates the new rules, partnering with the advocacy center to request an attorney general’s opinion on what districts are required to do, and expanding data collection.

Tom McMillin, a member of the state board, asked whether the state should consider financial penalties, such as withholding some state aid.

“I’m a fierce advocate for local control. But in areas where the incentives might not be there to do what’s right … I’m fine with the state stepping in,” McMillin said.

Board member Pamela Pugh said she appreciated the push for the board to “move with great speed.” She said the data and stories provided are “compelling, as well as convincing.”

Stone-Palmquist said that despite her concerns, there have been some successes.

“Districts that used to automatically expel 180 days for fights, for instance, have partnered with us to dramatically reduce those removals with great outcomes,” she said. “We know alternatives are possible and that they actually help get to the root of the problem, prevent future wrongdoing and repair the harm.”

The Detroit school district didn’t come up during the hearing. But on the same day Stone-Palmquist presented to the state board, Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti gave a presentation to his local board of education about what’s happened in the months since the district embarked on an effort to improve school culture by revising the student code of conduct, hiring deans for each school, and providing training on alternative discipline methods.

The bottom line: Vitti said that schools are booting out dramatically fewer students and greatly increasing alternative methods of discipline. In-school suspensions are up, given the push against out-of-school suspensions.

But the changes have also raised concerns. Some school staff have said the new rules are tying their hands. Vitti said it will take time for the changes to take hold, and he outlined some areas that need to improve, including more training.