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October 24, 2011
Fewer top scores on more robust high school progress reports
Nearly half of students who started ninth grade in 2006 are enrolled in college right now, but only a quarter of them were ready for it, city data shows. The numbers were revealed today when the Department of Education released high school progress reports for last year. For the first time, the reports include data about each school's course offerings and college enrollment rate, although that information will not be factored into schools’ grades until next year. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C grades in a row, could face closure. This year, 41 schools received D's or F's, an increase over last year, while fewer high schools received A grades than in any year since the progress reports were created in 2007. Speaking to reporters this morning, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer, attributed those changes to a tougher set of requirements around student performance on state tests, credit accumulation, and documentation for student discharges. "I think we're tightening things up and we've gotten a more precise result," he said.
October 24, 2011
College readiness hits progress reports but doesn't sway scores
The biggest change to this year's high school progress reports, being released this morning, won't affect schools' scores. In a nod to the growing recognition that a high school diploma does not guarantee college success, the Department of Education is adding three "college readiness" data points to the annual reports. They will calculate the percentages of students who passed college-level exams or courses; who would not require remedial courses at CUNY colleges; and who enroll in college the fall after they graduate. Starting next year, those figures will factor in to schools' final grades, but this year the department is including them for informational purposes only. Another change to the reports does reflect the growing focus on the quality of high school work — and is factored into the results. The credit accumulation metric, which looks at how many courses each student passed, has been narrowed to focus on classes completed in the core subjects of English, math, social studies, and science. In the past, a student was counted as having appropriately accumulated credits if he passed 10 classes, regardless of what they were. Now, at least six of the classes have to be in the core subjects. One thing that won't be on the reports: credit recovery numbers. Since last year, the department has been collecting data on the number of students who receive credit through non-traditional means after failing a class. The practice is sanctioned in policy but has been accused of being abused at some high schools, where students have been awarded credit after doing only minimal work. Another change will help some schools relax.
September 23, 2011
School report cards stabilize after years of unpredictability
After years of volatility, letter grades on progress reports for the city's elementary and middle schools are the most stable and accurate they've ever been, according to Department of Education officials. Queens schools had the highest grades on this year's city progress reports, which were released today, and charter schools received higher scores, on average, than schools across the city. Of the 1,219 schools to receive grades in this year's reports, 298 schools received an A, 411 received a B, 354 received a C, 79 received a D and 32 received an F. The city graded schools on a curve, so that 60 percent scored either an A or a B; 30 percent received C's; and 10 percent received D's or F's – twice as many as last year. That means new additions to the city's list of schools that it will consider closing. Schools that received a D or F, or three consecutive years of C or lower, are automatically added to the list of potential closures. Last year, 62 schools fell into that group, but this year, the total was 116. It is the fifth year that the city has issued the reports, which assess schools based heavily on students' state test scores and their improvement since last year, as well as attendance rates, and feedback from parents, students, and teachers. Schools also earn extra credit for progress made by students with disabilities and English language learners. For the first time this year, schools whose low-performing black and Latino boys made gains also got extra credit. "By acknowledging progress in schools that help struggling students, we can keep more students on track during elementary and middle school," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. Changing standards on state tests over the past two years had thrown the DOE's progress reports into a cycle of unpredictability. Inflated test scores in 2009 resulted in just two schools receiving F's, while 84 percent earned A's. Last year, after state tests became harder to pass, almost 70 percent of schools saw their grades drop and a third of schools saw their grades swing – mostly downward – by two or more letters.
September 23, 2011
DOE priorities seen in fresh tweaks to progress report formula
In an education department that's driven by data, what gets measured is a clear expression of values. So this year's elementary and middle school progress reports signal that the city is serious about integrating disabled students into regular classes, helping minority boys, and quickly getting immigrant students learning in English. The broad contours of what we'll see later today when the Department of Education releases the newest progress reports, based on the last school year, have been clear for months. Back in the spring, the DOE told principals that it would not insulate schools against steep score drops as it did last year, so we know that more schools will get failing grades that put them at risk of closure. In fact, the department set a fixed distribution of scores: 25 percent of schools will get As, 35 percent Bs, 30 percent Cs, 7 percent Ds, and 3 percent Fs. Last year, just 5 percent of schools were awarded D or F grades. We also know each school's state test scores, announced last month. While high or low average scores don't always equate to high or low progress report grades, because the reports are based mostly on the test scores, they often do. (The department is also guaranteeing that schools with test scores in the top third citywide get no lower than a C; last year, only schools in the top quarter got that promise.) Also, because fewer schools registered large test score gains or losses this year, progress report grades are likely to be relatively stable. That means that the biggest changes could come as the result of the department's annual tinkering with the reports' formula.
June 8, 2011
As Walcott watches, AP stats students scrutinize school metrics
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott listens to a student presentation on their school's progress report. Statistics students at a Brooklyn high school took an unusually high-profile final exam today: They presented an analysis of the city's school report cards to an audience that included their principal and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. Their teacher, Eleanor Terry, had invited the Chancellor via email, hoping to put together an official audience for her Advanced Placement statistics students at the High School for Telecommunication Arts and Technology. The school earned an A on its most recent progress report. But that didn't stop students — who wore buttons depicting their statistics class mascot, the "normalcurvasaurus" — from scrutinizing the way their school was graded. They examined technical issues including bias in survey questions, the way students are broken into deciles by their eighth-grade test scores, and how different scores were weighted to come up with their school’s final grade. The students peppered their presentations with recommendations for Walcott, ranging from offering the student surveys online to factoring a school’s size into its grading. Walcott spent more than an hour scribbling notes during the presentations. When students described difficult experiences in freshman physics classes and adjusting to high school, which they said could affect the student progress section of the report, Walcott asked, “Should we be doing something different freshman year?” “The kids were unbelievably impressed that he said he would come. And I can’t say my reaction was any different,” Principal Phil Weinberg said.
January 20, 2011
City awards bonuses to fewer schools after test scores drop
The number of city schools whose teachers are taking home bonuses fell to just 26 this year, with many past winners falling victim to the citywide decline in test scores. About 200 schools with many high-needs students are eligible for annual bonuses if their progress report scores increase sufficiently. Schools meeting their target score increase receive up to $3,000 per teachers union member, which a team of teachers and administrators decide how to distribute. In 2009, when progress report scores skyrocketed, teachers at 139 elementary and middle schools — 91 percent of those eligible — took home $27.1 million in bonuses. Staff at 20 high schools were awarded bonuses of $3.5 million. But after last year's precipitous test score drop, the total number of schools earning the latest round of bonuses is just 26, Department of Education Officials announced today. The awards range from $48,000 to teachers at the tiny High School for Violin and Dance in the Bronx to more than half a million dollars for staff at PS 77, a Brooklyn school for severely disabled students. The city did not announce which principals would take home performance bonuses, but the bonus program for principals has in the past awarded up to $25,000 to principals whose schools ranked in the top 20 percent citywide.
November 10, 2010
School officials anticipating busy months of closure hearings
School officials are battening down the hatches as they prepare for an onslaught of public hearings about school closures. Just hours after the city released the latest round of high school rankings, Sharon Greenberger, the Department of Education's chief operating officer, sent an email recruiting top-level deputies for an "all hands on deck" effort for the hearings, which could start as soon as this month and last through March. "Be prepared to maintain a very flexible evening schedule in January," Greenberger wrote to a small group of high-level deputies in Chancellor Joel Klein's cabinet. She also asked each of them to designate several staff members to help at the hearings, which are required by state law when the city seeks to close a school. Last year, the city held hearings for 19 schools that it tried to close. Many went late into the night, and the January meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, which had to approve the closures, finished at 4 a.m. This year, the city has signalled that it wants to close even more schools. The high school progress reports released last week added nine more schools to the already record-high list of 47 schools that the city has said it might try to close.
November 3, 2010
More D's and F's likely mean additions to closure watch-list
The number of schools the city is considering for closure — already a record-high 47 — will likely increase after today's public release of progress report scores. GothamSchools has identified a total of 9 schools that could be added to the city's watch-list for possible closure based on today's scores. The city flags schools if they receive three consecutive C grades or a single D or F. Though these schools meet the city's criteria for closure based on test scores, they have not been officially added to the list of schools the city might shutter. City officials said they will announce their plans for these schools at the end of this month or early next month. That's the same time the city will announce its plans for the high schools already identified for the watch list. Not all of the schools that received low grades today will end up flagged for possible closure. City officials have said they will not consider schools that post graduation rates higher than the citywide average. The city also spares schools like Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School that are receiving progress reports for the first time. City officials also strike from the list schools which receive the highest rating on the city's qualitative review, despite their low report card grades. So a school like Banana Kelly High School, which got a D today but which the city's reviewers rated "well developed" on last year's review, will likely be dropped from consideration.
November 3, 2010
For some schools, report cards bring about a quick turn in luck
Chancellor Joel Klein said the city would consider schools' new grades before deciding which ones to close. For a few high schools, the grades they got on this year's progress reports could make the difference between life and death. Though most schools' grades didn't change dramatically from last year, several schools the city tried to close last year saw improvement this year while others that had once been good schools have fallen to the bottom. Of the 19 schools the city unsuccessfully tried to close for poor performance last year, two schools had their grades jump multiple rungs. W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School and the Choir Academy of Harlem, both of which got D's last year, and got B's this time. Chancellor Joel Klein said the Department of Education would take the new, higher grades into consideration when deciding whether to try and close the schools it had once deemed "failures" a second time. "We put great weight on the grades," he said at a press conference this morning at Manhattan Bridges High School. "We announced those schools based on the information we had at the time."
November 3, 2010
More F's and fewer A's mark new high school progress reports
For the second year in a row, the city has awarded fewer top progress report grades to high schools. Nearly 70 percent of high schools received A's or B's on this year's reports, which are being released today, down from about 75 percent last year and 83 percent in 2008. And more schools will have to endure a year of having the letter "F" branded on their report cards. Last year, the city gave only one F, but this year nine schools got that grade, and another 23 received D's. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C's in a row, are at risk for closure. The city has indicated that it might try to close more schools this year than in past years. This year's high school grades were more stable than those for elementary and middle schools, which were released last month. Elementary and middle school reports are based almost entire on state reading and math scores, and lower scores statewide caused grades to fall this year at about 70 percent of schools.
September 30, 2010
Highlights and lowlights from the 2010 school report cards
The Department of Education official charged with creating schools' progress reports said today that parents should look beyond the capitalized, bold-faced grades on the reports and analyze the schools' data. "We want parents to get more involved at looking at all the information behind the overall grade," said Deputy Chancellor for Accountability Shael Suransky. He also said that this year's reports for elementary and middle schools are the "most accurate" the city has ever produced. As parents and principals figure out what to make of the new ratings, here are some highlights culled from the data: Because the DOE gave schools extra credit if they were especially successful with special education students and students who aren't fluent in English, two schools scored over 100 points. Chancellor Klein visited one of the schools — P.S. 172 Beacon School in Sunset Park — as part of his back-to-school tour. The other school, P.S. 32 Belmont in the Bronx, received more extra credit points (15 in total) than any other school in the city. Last year, nearly 50 schools got more than 100 points.
September 29, 2010
As city overhauls school progress reports, release is kept quiet
New York City is releasing its annual report cards for every public elementary and middle school tomorrow, and though this event is usually the focus of the week's news cycle, city officials are trying to keep the release quiet. Last year, when 97 percent of elementary and middle schools received an A or B on their progress reports, Department of Education officials held a press conference with Chancellor Joel Klein to announce the results. The same was done in 2008. This year, just as the city has changed its formula for assigning the grades and tougher state tests mean more schools will receive a D or F grade than last year or the year before, the DOE is downplaying the release. There will be no press conference tomorrow. The chancellor, who in years past has taken questions from reporters in public, will spend the day in Washington D.C, according to a DOE spokesman. Instead, reporters have to request a phone interview with DOE Deputy Chancellor for Accountability Shael Suransky and Klein may be made available for some reporters' calls late tomorrow afternoon. "The reasoning is that apart from the data itself, the grades schools receive, and which ones receive the grades, there's no news here," said DOE spokesman Matt Mittenthal.
September 29, 2010
City to release progress reports with new formula, lower grades
Tomorrow, when the city releases its progress reports for elementary and middle schools, parents will begin the annual rite of deciphering their schools' report cards. But this year the tradition will be complicated by a new formula and, for many schools, lower grades. The city is trying to accomplish several goals at once: It is hoping to improve the methods it uses to measure student progress and reduce the wild fluctuation and inflation of grades that has marked past years' progress reports. At the same time, city officials hope to convince parents, teachers and principals that the grades are meaningful, especially in light of this year's sharp drop in test scores across the city. Last year, the city gave 84 percent of elementary and middle schools A’s, while 13 percent received a B, and 2 percent received a C. Just five schools were given D’s, and two were given F’s. Those grades were much higher than the year before, when 38 percent of schools were given an A. In 2007, when the reports were first issued, 23 percent received that rating. For this year's progress reports, the city is making several big changes to how the grades are calculated. First, it is modifying how the city calculates students' progress. In the past, a significant percentage of a school's grade — 85 percent for elementary and middle schools — was based on student performance on state math and reading scores. So when test scores went up throughout the city in 2009 (reflecting a statewide trend), the grades soared on progress reports. This year the city is doing something different. It is comparing the progress of each student to other students who began the school year performing at the same level.
August 11, 2010
College-readiness reports useful, but not complete, city says
City schools are learning more about how their graduates fare in college. But parents aren’t getting the new reports, at least for now. That’s because the city knows how only a small fraction of graduates perform in college and doesn't want to suggest it has complete information about how well schools prepare their graduates. A data-sharing agreement between the City University of New York and the Department of Education means the city knows more than it ever has about high school graduates enrolled at CUNY schools. But they make up only half of all college-bound graduates, who in turn represent just 60 percent of high school students. The new reports explain whether graduates who enroll in CUNY colleges need to take remedial classes and whether they stay enrolled. But they don’t say anything about the 42 percent of graduates who go to private colleges and colleges outside of the city. And they also leave out the one-third of graduates who don’t go to college at all. Without that information, the reports aren’t terribly useful for parents trying to figure out how well schools prepare students for college, and they could give inaccurate impressions of how well schools compare to each other, said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the deputy chancellor in charge of accountability. “You could have really misleading information if you try to make a comparison [between schools], because there are variables missing,” he said.
June 16, 2010
A tale of two Bronx schools: similar scores but different ratings
Two elementary schools in the South Bronx, P.S. 161 and P.S. 277, are half a mile apart. They are both mid-sized, high-poverty elementary schools serving mostly Hispanic students. Last school year, both schools had similar percentages of their students passing state exams in math, reading, and science. But under the city's progress report card grading system, P.S. 161 was ranked in the top fifth of schools, and P.S. 277 was ranked in the bottom fifth. Why? The reasons are highlighted in a new report whose authors examined each school in-depth. Visiting P.S. 277, the report's co-author Clara Hemphill found engaged students and energetic teachers. But its well-rounded curriculum — which teaches skills that are part of state standards but not tested on standardized exams — isn't weighted heavily in the city's report card accounting. The school also has a high poverty rate and lots of homeless kids, but the progress report system doesn't count those students when determining whether the school serves a challenging population.
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