Education news. In context.
Diversity & Equity
Politics & Policy
Teaching & Classroom
Student & School Performance
Leadership & Management
Charters & Choice
Find a Job
How to be a Chalkbeat source
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
January 29, 2010
City schools to be graded on a curve for next year's report cards
Many of the city elementary and middle schools who received A's on last year's report cards are likely to see their grades drop under a new scoring system for next year, Department of Education officials told principals today. Next year, only the top-scoring 25 percent of elementary and middle schools will receive A's, with just under a third of schools each getting B's and C's. A tenth of schools will be handed D's, and 5 percent will receive failing grades, according to the plan outlined today by the city's accountability chief Shael Polakow-Suransky. (More than 80 percent of elementary and middle schools took home A's on their progress reports for last school year.) The change comes as part of the first step of a gradual recalibration of the way schools are rated in the city's progress reports system and is also a by-product of the wider state effort to overhaul tests given to New York's third through eighth graders.
November 12, 2009
In Bronx, two high schools’ progress reports are being withheld
Progress reports for the city's roughly 500 high schools are slated to be released this month, but grades for two Bronx schools will not be among them. One is Herbert H. Lehman High School, where executive principal Janet Saraceno is under investigation for grade tampering, as I reported last month. The Department of Education also may not release the progress report for John F. Kennedy High School because of missing information and inconsistencies in the data it sent to the department, said DOE spokesman David Cantor. If the problems with Kennedy's data are resolved by the time the department releases the reports, the school's report card will be made public on schedule, Cantor said. Several other high schools are being examined by the Office of Special Investigations for tampering with students' Regents scores or inappropriately changing students' grades after they passed the exam, but their report cards are on track to be released.
October 30, 2009
High school report cards won't be covered in "A's," officials say
Department of Education officials are tamping down expectations before next month's release of the annual high school report cards. Testifying at a hearing before the City Council's Education Committee, the DOE's chief accountability officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said today that the reports will not show the preponderance of A's that dominated the elementary and middle school reports released in September. "You're not going to see the big changes in the high school level that you saw at the elementary level," Suransky said. "We didn't see dramatic gains in the same way." That could be a good thing for the department, which saw its main accountability measure widely criticized when it announced that 84 percent of elementary-and middle-schools had earned an A.
September 3, 2009
Teacher bonuses paid by taxpayers for the first time this year
The city is set to award millions of dollars in bonuses to teachers and principals at high-performing schools tomorrow, using public funds for the first time in a year when schools have faced deep cuts. The city would not disclose today how much money would be awarded tomorrow. But last year, the bonuses for elementary and middle school teachers amounted to nearly $20 million. (Nearly $8 million went to high school principals and teachers after high school progress reports were released.) About $5.5 million went to administrators whose schools scored in the top 20 percent on the progress reports. The rest of the money, $14.2 million, went to 89 of the schools participating in a separate bonus program in which a team of teachers and administrators decides how to mete out the extra money at each school. Last year, the $14.2 million tab for the school-wide bonus program was paid by a host of private donors, including the Broad Foundation and the Partnership for the City of New York, and the plan was for taxpayers to begin footing the bill this year. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Ann Forte, confirmed today that the plan had not changed. The bonus program for principals used public dollars last year.
September 3, 2009
Aaron Pallas: "Progress" measurement on reports still random
Last year, Teachers College sociologist Aaron Pallas concluded that the city’s progress report formula generated results that were wildly inconsistent from year to year,…
September 2, 2009
Principals use progress reports as playbook to plan school year
Sample progress report Principals around the city are celebrating their top grades on the city's annual school report cards today, and many say the system helped them plan and execute the progress that drove the slew of high scores. They can do that because the report card grades rise with test score gains — and they also provide an intricate breakdown of exactly what elements brought the overall grade up or down. Rowena Penn-Jackson, principal of P.S. 230 in the Bronx, realized that the school needed to place greater emphasis on teaching reading comprehension of non-fiction and poetry. Several principals at high-achieving schools said the reports showed them the school needed to devote more resources to English language learners. Survey data nudged Democracy Prep Charter School's Seth Andrew and Amber Charter School's Vasthi Acosta to modify their methods of communicating effectively with parents. Hellenic Classical Charter School principal Christina Tettonis instituted more professional development sessions to train teachers to use test scores to personalize instruction for individual students.
September 2, 2009
Klein defends this year's progress reports from renewed criticism
Number of schools receiving A-F letter grades this year Defending this year's school progress reports at a news conference this morning, Chancellor Joel Klein said the high marks given to an overwhelming majority of city schools did not mean the grading system had lost its value. The reports, which the Department of Education began issuing two years ago, use a complex formula to assign each school a letter grade, allowing parents to compare schools and principals to see what areas need improvement. This year, the city gave 84 percent of elementary and middle schools A's, while only 13 percent received a B and 2 percent received a C. A total of five schools were given D's, and two were given F's. (Philissa has some snapshots of the data here). Last year, 38 percent of schools were given an A. In 2007, when the reports were first issued, 23 percent received that rating. Responding to reporters' questions about whether giving 97 percent of schools A and B's had rendered the progress reports meaningless, Klein said that the grading system still served a purpose. He explained that the reports only measure whether a school has met the city's goals for it, not whether it is above average.
September 2, 2009
Just two F's amid nearly straight A's on 2009 progress reports
Just two schools got F's on their progress reports this year, bearing out reports that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would tout high scores when he released this year's grades today. Eighty-four percent of elementary and middle schools earned A's, up from 38 percent last year, promising to stir up questions about how useful the progress reports are for parents and principals. A few other highlights: Of the lowest-performing schools, most opened under Klein's watch. Nearly 5 percent of schools earned so much extra credit for helping their neediest students that their scores exceeded 100 percent. And the schools that the city tried to close last year before being thwarted by a lawsuit all earned A grades. Klein is offering his interpretation to reporters right now at a press conference, and we'll bring updates from there later in the day. For now, take a look at the complete list of progress report grades and add your observations to mine: Ten of the 12 schools with the lowest raw scores opened since Klein became chancellor in 2002. The two schools that received F's are Washington Heights Academy, which opened in 2004, and Harlem Link Charter School, which opened in 2005. This was the first year the schools had enough test results to give them progress reports.
September 1, 2009
Progress reports could prove a double-edged sword for Klein
The city schools are likely to be heaped with praise tomorrow when Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announces this year's progress report grades. But a dearth of low grades could actually turn out to be a double-edged sword for Klein. When the progress report initiative was first announced, Klein said the grades would be used to determine which schools to close. This year, if the chancellor decides to close more schools, he could find himself in the position of arguing that his own accountability system did not accurately reflect a school's shortcomings. The grades are also sure to add to the scrutiny currently being given to the test scores that account for most of each school's grade. The vast majority of a school's progress report grade — 85 percent — depends on its students' scores on state math and reading tests, with the bulk of that based on how much each student's scores increased since 2008. (The remaining 15 percent of each score is based on attendance data and the results of surveys given to parents, teachers, and students.) Under this formula, this year's citywide jump in test scores could give rise to a significant jump in progress report grades. Indeed, we've heard from several sources that most elementary and middle schools are getting very high grades, and only a handful are getting failing grades.
August 19, 2009
Over objections, Klein boosts progress reports on Australian TV
An Australian teacher who recently worked in the Bronx said yesterday that she saw nothing in the New York City schools she wanted to bring back to the land down under. Her comments came on the Australian television show "Insight," which yesterday focused on the Australian government's plan to adopt Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's controversial school progress reports. The episode featured Klein, who swapped visits last year with Australia's education minister, Julia Gillard, via live video feed. (Watch the episode, or read the transcript.) "There is nothing about classrooms in New York that I would like to replicate in Australian schools," teacher Mary-Ellen Betts said on the show. Betts worked as a literacy consultant (presumably an AUSSIE) at a Bronx elementary school several years ago. She continued: The impact of high stakes testing which is what it becomes when you are threatening to close schools, means that the curriculum narrows. Children are forced into more and more repeats of the same thing. So that if your school is failing and if you've got a group of failing students, you bring them in for breakfast programs. You keep them after school for after school programs. So that children as young as 6 are at school from 7.30 till 4.30 — they are still failing. A mockup of Australia's school progress report is below. Compare it to city progress reports here.
July 23, 2009
Thompson says he's inclined to end "foolish" progress reports
Comptroller William Thompson called the letter grades given to city schools "arbitrary" and said he would probably eliminate them if he is elected mayor. Thompson made the remarks in an exclusive interview with GothamSchools today. The controversial reports assign each school a letter grade using a complicated formula that takes into account student test scores and responses to surveys. Critics of the reports have said that they are not statistically reliable and unfairly stigmatize good schools. Today, Thompson called the reports "foolish." "Information about schools is important," Thompson told me. "I think that we've seen how arbitrary these letter grades are and I probably would not keep letter grades."
June 24, 2009
City to roll out a new "parent-friendly" school progress report
After years of criticism that its school report cards are too difficult for most parents to understand, the city is redesigning the report cards that give each school a letter grade. Starting this fall, the Department of Education will produce one-page progress reports that contain only the most important pieces of performance data about each school. The new reports are meant to deliver complicated accountability information "in a more parent-friendly way," according to Phil Vaccaro, a representative of the department's accountability office. Vaccaro presented a draft of the new report to the city school board yesterday. The "progress report family summary" has the same content but a different design from the data-packed two-pager currently produced for each school. For example, instead of having eight different numbers to describe student progress, there is just one, the proportion of students who made a year's progress in a single year. A member of the school board, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, worked with the department to develop the new reports. "We need to present them in ways parents can understand," he said, adding that parents who misunderstood the reports could make misinformed school choices. Critics of the progress reports said the family summary might actually be too simple.
April 8, 2009
DOE releases SSO performance data; let the crunching begin
One thing that went under the radar during the nonstop news cycle of the last few weeks is a sizable data dump from the Department of Education, which for the first time released statistical reports about the 11 organizations that support the city's schools. The reports went online last week to inaugurate the period when schools can choose which organization they want to affiliate with. The organizations, called School Support Organizations, or SSOs, have provided support services to individual schools for the last two years in place of the traditional school-district bureaucracy. This is the first time that the DOE has allowed schools to change the affiliation they originally selected back in 2007. The new reports include a chart (above) comparing the SSOs according to their schools' progress report scores, quality review evaluations, and principal satisfaction survey results. The result is the public evaluation that Eric Nadelstern, the DOE's chief schools officer who formerly ran the Empowerment organization, said back in January was being cooked up the department's accountability office. The comparison, which takes into account school data from the 2007-2008 school year, shows that the SSO run by the City University of New York did the best, followed closely by the Empowerment organization. The reports are available on the DOE's Web site only in PDF format, and there is a different one for each organization. A DOE spokeswoman told me that the department had not made available a database compiling the data, so I went ahead and made one, available here or after the jump. I also went one step further and added some calculations of my own, based on the DOE's data: The percent change in progress report and quality review scores from 2007 to 2008. Among my first impressions: Schools either improved their internal operations significantly between 2007 and 2008, or else they figured out how to look like they had improved, because the percentage of schools receiving top ratings on their Quality Reviews jumped in every organization. If you have more statistics knowhow than I do and some extra time on your hands (like during this school vacation), take a look and note what you see. Leave your observations in the comments.
February 19, 2009
Getting an F or a D led schools to assign fewer essays, projects
When the Bloomberg administration announced it would assign every public school a letter grade, based largely on test scores, critics worried the grades would lead to a "drill and kill" approach to teaching. Forced to raise test scores, they said, schools might avoid teaching creativity and problem-solving in favor of focusing on basic skills. New research suggests that the critics worries may have come true — but the researchers don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Jonah Rockoff, a professor at Columbia business school who has been studying the Bloomberg administration's accountability system, presented the finding today at a lunch at New York University. It's part of a paper whose central conclusion — that grading schools with D's and F's led schools to improve their test scores — was publicized last year. But the paper has many other interesting aspects, and Rockoff's research is continuing. Today, I'll stick to the "back to the basics" idea; future posts will tackle other areas of interest. Rockoff's paper draws three conclusions about schools tacked with D's and F's that lead to the "back to the basics" conclusion. In the months after getting the failing grades, these schools 1) spent less time on work that involved essays and projects; 2) saw an increase in emphasis on using test score data to make decisions about curriculum; and 3) were less likely to have teachers report that their administrators' focused on teaching quality.
November 20, 2008
Teachers are happy with bonus program, but questions remain
Reflecting their satisfaction with a controversial initiative, teachers in virtually every school that participated in the first year of a school-wide performance bonus program voted to participate again this year, the Department of Education announced today. (Download the full list of schools.) When it was first announced last year, the bonus program was received with skepticism by some who saw the union's participation as a first step toward true merit pay. Teachers unions have traditionally opposed the idea of paying teachers differently depending on their students' performance. The DOE's program, in contrast, awards participating schools that meet their "performance targets" a shared pot of money that school personnel can decide how to distribute With 89% of teachers voting to keep their schools in the bonus program, it's clear that teachers at participating schools were happy with the program's first year. But more important is whether the program benefitted students. On that question, the numbers are less clear.
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Ready or Not
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line