data dump

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.

  • Eight schools got F’s this year. They are: P.S. 186 Walter Damrosch School (Bronx), P.S. 811 Mickey Mantle School (Manhattan), Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School (Brooklyn), Community Roots Charter School (Brooklyn), Academy of Collaborative Education (Manhattan), P.S. 332 Charles Houston (Brooklyn), School for Environmental Citizenship (Bronx), Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (Bronx). The city tried to close P.S. 332 last year, but was blocked by a union lawsuit. Four of the F schools have never received progress reports before — two because they are new (Community Roots and Academy of Collaborative Education) and two because they are in District 75 (P.S. 186 and P.S. 811) — putting them at a major disadvantage. Had they gotten reports last year, their grades would have been as inflated as other schools’ grades were. They would have been able to take advantage of this year’s safety net, which prevented schools from dropping more than two letter grades.
  • Twenty-two schools out of 1,140 saw their letter grades go up this year. Most of them — 12 in total — rose from a B to an A, five rose from a C to a B, two from a D to a C, and one from an F to a D. Two elementary schools stand out for jumping up multiple grades. Washington Heights Academy went from an F to a B this year and P.S. 28 Warren Prep Academy in Brooklyn went from a D to a B.
    • The city’s teachers union runs a K-8 charter school in Brooklyn that, last year, was in the bottom five percent of schools citywide. That trend has repeated itself again this year, potentially putting the school’s future in jeopardy. Last year, the school got a B and this year its score fell to a D. Though its “environment” score, which measures factors likes parent happiness with the school, is a middling C, the school’s numerical environment score makes it the fourth lowest among charter schools.

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said the school has a new executive director, a new literacy program, and is creating small learning communities. The school is also trying to make teachers — particularly young teachers — feel that they’re part of a team that shares ideas. “We know exactly what the issues are. We’ll just keep moving forward,” Mulgrew said, adding that he does not believe the school’s authorizer will close it this year.

  • P.S. 65 Mother Hale Academy in the Bronx, the only elementary school on the list of 23 schools New York City plans to “turnaround” with federal grant money, got a C on its progress report. It got an F for environment, a D for performance, and a B for progress.
  • With 62 percent of its elementary and middle schools A-rated, District 26 in Queens had the highest percentage of A’s. District 2 in Manhattan had the highest percentage of B schools, at 52 percent, and district 18 in Brooklyn had the highest percentage of C schools at 58 percent. Brooklyn also had the highest percentage of D schools and the highest percentage of F schools belongs to District 75, which serves disabled students. The seven F-rated schools are spread out around the city, but none are in Queens.
  • While 25 percent of district schools got A’s on their report cards, 20 percent of charter schools achieved this rating. This is not unlike last year, when 84 percent of district schools got A’s and 73 percent of charters got A’s.

after douglas

Betsy DeVos avoids questions on discrimination as school safety debates reach Congress

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos prepares to testify at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the department's FY2019 budget. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos fielded some hostile questions on school safety and racial discrimination as she defended the Trump administration’s budget proposal in a House committee hearing on Tuesday.

The tone for the hearing was set early by ranking Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who called aspects DeVos’s prepared remarks “misleading and cynical” before the secretary had spoken. Even the Republican subcommittee chair, Rep. Tom Cole, expressed some skepticism, saying he was “concerned about the administration continuing to request cuts that Congress has rejected.”

During nearly two hours of questioning, DeVos stuck to familiar talking points and largely side-stepped the tougher queries from Democrats, even as many interrupted her.

For instance, when Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Texas, complained about proposed spending cuts and asked, “Isn’t it your job to ensure that schools aren’t executing harsher punishments for the same behavior because [students] are black or brown?” DeVos responded by saying that students of color would benefit from expanded school choice programs.

Lee responded: “You still haven’t talked about the issue in public schools as it relates to black and brown students and the high disparity rates as it relates to suspensions and expulsions. Is race a factor? Do you believe that or not?” (Recent research in Louisiana found that black students receive longer suspensions than white students involved in the same fights, though the difference was very small.)

Again, DeVos did not reply directly.

“There is no place for discrimination and there is no tolerance for discrimination, and we will continue to uphold that,” she said. “I’m very proud of the record of the Office of Civil Rights in continuing to address issues that arise to that level.”

Lee responded that the administration has proposed cuts to that office; DeVos said the reduction was modest — less than 1 percent — and that “they are able to do more with less.”

The specific policy decision that DeVos faces is the future of a directive issued in 2014 by the Obama administration designed to push school districts to reduce racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions. Conservatives and some teachers have pushed DeVos to rescind this guidance, while civil rights groups have said it is crucial for ensuring black and Hispanic students are not discriminated against.

That was a focus of another hearing in the House on Tuesday precipitated by the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, falsely claimed in his opening statement that Broward County Public Schools rewrote its discipline policy based on the federal guidance — an idea that has percolated through conservative media for weeks and been promoted by other lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. In fact, the Broward County rules were put into place in 2013, before the Obama administration guidance was issued.

The Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden, a leading critic of Obama administration’s guidance, acknowledged in his own testimony that the Broward policy predated these rules. But he suggested that policies like Broward’s and the Obama administration’s guidance have made schools less safe.

“Faced with pressure to get the numbers down, the easiest path is to simply not address, or to not record, troubling, even violent, behavior,” he said.

Kristen Harper, a director with research group Child Trends and a former Obama administration official, disagreed. “To put it simply, neither the purpose nor the letter of the federal school discipline guidance restrict the authority of school personnel to remove a child who is threatening student safety,” she said.

There is little, if any, specific evidence linking Broward County’s policies to how Stoneman Douglas shooter Nicholas Cruz was dealt with. There’s also limited evidence about whether reducing suspensions makes schools less safe.

Eden pointed to a study in Philadelphia showing that the city’s ban on suspensions coincided with a drop in test scores and attendance in some schools. But those results are difficult to interpret because the prohibition was not fully implemented in many schools. He also cited surveys of teachers expressing concerns about safety in the classroom including in Oklahoma CityFresno, California; and Buffalo, New York.

On the other hand, a recent study found that after Chicago modestly reduced suspensions for the most severe behaviors, student test scores and attendance jumped without any decline in how safe students felt.

DeVos is now set to consider the repeal of those policies on the Trump administration’s school safety committee, which she will chair.

On Tuesday, DeVos said the committee’s first meeting would take place “within the next few weeks.” Its members will be four Cabinet secretaries: DeVos herself, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.