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Student & School Performance
July 31, 2012
Study: Students who slip before they succeed still at risk later on
A chart from the report showing how students with very different high school trajectories can end up in the same place academically—at least on paper. Not all high school graduates are created equally: Some had to make up ground after falling behind along the path to graduation day. Identifying those future graduates early could be key to getting them to succeed in college later, according to a new report. The report, authored by researchers with the education nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools, tracked students in 75 New Visions-supported city schools through high school and into college. The report finds that students who graduate with a Regents diploma after years of struggling are much less likely to succeed in college than those students who have a history of good performance. Schools tend to pay special attention to students with obvious obstacles to overcome, such as a disability or status as an English language learner. But students who have a couple of bad semesters in tenth grade and then earn passing grades in their junior year don't always register as being "at risk" to their schools, the report concludes. The report advocates for schools to expand the definition of an "at-risk" student to include any student who has experienced ups and downs—which are marked and reviewed according to a metric system detailed in the study that New Visions schools will continue to use. It also argues that school districts like New York City are pushing schools in this direction by emphasizing schools' graduation rate as the main benchmark of success. "We're trying to take the conversation and say, every kid, whether high or low performing, is vulnerable but in a different way," said Susan Fairchild, one of the report's lead authors. "Our accountability structures don't necessarily support schools. We're moving in those direction, but our systems are really based on accumulation, not flow, not how kids actually come into the system."
July 23, 2012
Annual survey reflects sanguine views of school performance
A slide from the Department of Education's presentation of this year's Learning Environment Survey results shows teachers' responses to questions about their evaluations. Results of the city's annual survey of what parents, students and teachers think about their schools paints a much rosier picture than data on school performance indicate. It also offers a rosier picture of teachers' views of their evaluation system than both city and union officials have painted in the past. This year, 94 percent of parents said they were "satisfied" with their children's education, and 95 percent of students said they have to "work hard to get good grades" — figures city officials touted as a sign that the schools are becoming more rigorous. Answering a new question, 94 percent of teachers said their school "does a good job supporting students who aspire to go to 2- or 4-year colleges." Those responses suggest that city parents, students, and teachers remain sanguine about their schools even as the city and state have mounted a concerted effort to raise expectations. The Learning Environment Survey results, which the city published today, come on the heels of annual state test scores that showed for the second straight year that fewer than half of the city's third through eighth graders are reading at grade level. And while the city's "college-readiness" rate inched up since it was first announced last year, only about a quarter of students meet the city's and state's standards. The survey results do signal that some schools are beginning to ask more of their students. Since 2009, the proportion of high school students who say they are receiving "helpful" college and career counseling has risen from 74 to 82 percent. And while the number of students reporting sophisticated research or essay assignments barely budged, the number who said they had been asked to "complete an essay or project where [they] had to use evidence to defend [their] own opinion or ideas" three or more times increased sharply, from 62 percent in 2011 to 67 percent this year.
June 21, 2012
Schools picked to pioneer college prep program for young men
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott speaks at And thean Expanded Success Initiative announcement. And then there were 40. Earlier this year the Department of Education named 81 schools that could be eligible to lead one of the most significant educational programs in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative. Last month, 57 schools submitted proposals for the pot of funds attached to the program, called the Expanded Success Initiative. The funds would go toward programs to improve the college readiness rates of male students. The 40 schools that made the cut were named today. They will receive $250,000 each to pioneer new college-readiness strategies. Monitors will evaluate the progress the schools make over the course of the coming year and provide feedback for what may eventually become citywide policies. The schools were selected because they have already made strides serving youth of color, but they are still struggling to meet the city's new college readiness metrics, officials said. To be eligible, schools were required to have a four-year graduation rate above 65 percent, to have received an A or B on their most recent progress reports, and to have student bodies comprised of at least 35 percent are black or Latino males and 60 percent are qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. "You have done well in your high school graduation rate, but now we've redefined the message, along with the state," Chancellor Dennis Walcott told an audience of school leaders and students at an event today welcoming schools to the initiative. "It's no longer just about high school graduation, it's about college and career readiness, making sure all of our students can attain that high goal."
May 4, 2012
At civics competition, students present plans for progress
Students from Generation Citizen's inaugural Civics Day (Wei Yao) The ninth grade girls at the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice weren't interested in much when Pace University junior Kayla Francis first visited their classroom in February to discuss civics topics to research. She tossed out a few ideas – poverty, humanitarianism – until one issue finally caught their attention. "Nothing got them as excited as women's health," said Francis. Led by Francis, a mentor on the project, the group spent the next six weeks researching women's health issues, including teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, which they said were issues in their own all-girls school. On Friday they presented their findings – along with a plan to raise awareness – to a panel of about 40 judges from around the city community as part of an inaugural "Civics Day" event hosted by Generation Citizen. More than 500 middle and high school students from 14 schools participated in the six-week program, which is in its first year in New York City. Generation Citizen, founded by Scott Warren during his senior year at Brown University in 2008, already has similar civics programs in Boston and Providence. New York City is no stranger to civics education programs, of course. In March, a similar event was held at the Academy for Young Writers.
April 4, 2012
Truman HS principal turns to local college for readiness boost
Truman High School Principal Sana Nasser introduces a program to boost college readiness. Harry S. Truman High School Principal Sana Nasser started making college preparation a priority long before the city began sounding the alarm about poor college readiness rates. She has encouraged students at her large Bronx school to take college level courses at the nearby Mercy College campus, and invited alumni enrolled in college to meet with current students. But when the city assessed her efforts in its first release of data measuring how schools are preparing students for college academics, Truman fell short of the city's already dismally low averages in all three college readiness categories. Just ten percent of Truman's students scored high enough on advanced standardized tests to be considered "college prepared," according to the city's rubric. So Nasser is trying a different approach. She has joined with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and administrators from Mercy College to create a college readiness initiative that target all students and offer the strongest ones a chance to earn a two-year associates degree by the time they graduate from high school. "I believe some of you can do high school in two years and take college courses," she told an assembly of honors students in grades nine through twelve seated in the school's spiffy, first-floor IMAX theater.
March 23, 2012
In pursuit of college readiness, a course about "Assimilation"
Mitch Kurz leads students through a true/false quiz about the psychology of dreams. Mitch Kurz is a math teacher and a college counselor, but the lessons he teaches don't fall neatly into either subject area. On a recent winter morning, Kurz asked students in his college readiness class to describe their dreams. On the board, he wrote, "What do your dreams mean?" followed by "Sigmund Freud" and a list of vocabulary words more typical of a Psychology 101 class: id, ego, superego. Most of Kurz's two dozen South Bronx juniors and seniors had not heard of these concepts before. But after a semester learning a hodgepodge of lessons from Kurz meant to ease the transition to college — covering everything from the dreidel game, to basic French, to the elevator pitch — students say they come into class expecting the unfamiliar. The class, which Kurz calls "Assimilation," is meant to ease the transition to college for students at the Bronx Center for Science and Math, a small school with many poor students who would be the first in their families to attend college. The school emphatically urges all graduates to enroll in college, and the vast majority do — but they suffer the same academic and financial challenges that low-income, first-generation students often face. Nationally, 89 percent of those students who enter college leave without a degree within six years. Increasing students' likelihood of graduating from college has emerged as a major frontier in education policy. The city's approach is to toughen high school preparation so students have a better shot of handling the rigor of college-level work. Others, such as the KIPP network of charter schools, believe the problem lies more in students' capacity to handle challenges and have developed programs to bolster traits such as resilience and "grit" that seem correlated with college success. At Kurz's school, academic standards are important, and so is character. But Kurz adds an additional approach.
February 16, 2012
Efforts spur college readiness dialogue in Washington Heights
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez speaks to a crowd of Washington Heights parents about college readiness Wednesday evening. A Washington Heights politician who has been trying to get local parents talking about college readiness might have bitten off more than he can chew. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has adopted a novel response to the daunting statistic that only about 13 percent of the city's African American and Latino students are graduating from high school prepared for college: He has put together a working group of principals to get families talking about the path to college starting in kindergarten. But at a forum Wednesday evening at I.S. 143, the first public event to come out of the working group's suggestions, parents among the audience of 60 families, educators, and elected officials spoke mostly about more immediate concerns. Most of the parents who spoke during the question and answer session prefaced their questions about college readiness with complaints about high class sizes and administrative problems at their schools, which drew the meeting off topic. "There are 35 kids in our classroom and only one teacher," one mother said. "What are the things we can do about that?"
February 9, 2012
Find your school's 2011 remediation rates
More Colorado high school graduates are assigned to remedial courses when they enroll in a state college or university, according to a Department of Higher Education report released this week. Find out what's happening at your child's school in this interactive database.
January 26, 2012
At turnaround schools, wide range in college readiness rates
Click on the chart for an expanded view. A handful of the high schools the city wants to "turn around" are already doing a better-than-average job at preparing students for college.
January 19, 2012
City officials say college readiness rate should double by 2016
Students from the Urban Youth Collaborative present suggestions to boost college readiness before a City Council hearing on the subject. By 2016, the proportion of students who graduate from city high schools ready for college-level work will double, Department of Education officials told skeptical City Council members today. The ambitious projection, made during a hearing on college and career readiness, would require growth that far outstrips even the most liberal assessments of the Department of Education's recent record of improvement. But even then most students would not be considered "college-ready." In 2010, when the city touted a 61 percent four-year graduation rate, just 21 percent of students who had entered high school in four years earlier met the state's college-readiness requirements. A disjuncture has long been visible between what city high schools require for graduation and what the City University of New York expects from new students. Three quarters of the students enrolling in CUNY's two-year colleges must take remedial math or reading classes, and that number has risen along with college attendance rates in recent years, especially as CUNY has toughened its standards. Testifying before members of the council's committees on education and higher education, UFT President Michael Mulgrew accused the city of practicing "social graduation" by giving high school diplomas to students who must repeat high school-level work before starting college classes. But until recently, high school graduation, not college readiness, was considered the gold standard for success testified Shael Polakow-Suransky, the DOE's chief academic officer. He said school officials had been adjusting their priorities to meet rising expectations and were confident that initiatives already underway would substantially change the picture. In particular, he said, new curriculum standards known as the Common Core that are being rolled out this year would push students to develop critical thinking skills required for college-level work.
October 24, 2011
DOE: College-readiness data could take toll on reports next year
Although the city’s new college readiness metrics were not factored into high school progress reports this year, they will be next year—and schools that don’t prepare could see drops in their grades, city officials said. The new data points are one of the Department of Education's answers to increased scrutiny on how public schools are preparing students for college. Criticisms have mounted against city schools for graduating students who are not college-bound, or require large doses of remedial coursework when they get to college. But Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer, said they will not be factored into the schools’ scores until next fall because the Department of Education wants educators to have time to adjust their curriculums to meet those standards. Until the city completely rolls out new Common Core standards, he said, instructors will have to walk a fine line between preparing students for state exams, which often require broad but shallow knowledge, and simulating college-level work with more writing assignments and long-term projects. “We’re not waiting for the state to change its assessments, but it is a real dilemma that teachers and students face until that change occurs,” he said. “You can play around with the cut scores, but until you actually change what you ask kids to do, until you ask them to do more writing, more critical thinking, more problem-solving, engage with more rigorous texts, you’re not changing the standard. That’s the real work.” The department hasn't decided yet how to factor the new data points into progress report scores, Polakow-Suransky said. But he said expected the college readiness metrics to bring many grades down next year.
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 14, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
Boulder Valley votes against later start to year - Denver school board candidate forum planned - Want to learn more about District 6? - 'Slow family' movement focuses on fewer outside activities - CollegeInvest offers college savings - Homeless students a growing problem in Colorado schools.
August 8, 2011
City's test gains outpace state's, but performance remains low
From the state's test score presentation, a slide that shows gains in New York City that exceeds that of other cities. A first look at state test score data confirms good news for New York City: The city's test scores gains exceeded those across the state. According to data released today, 43.9 percent of city students in grades 3-8 met the proficiency standard in reading and 57.3 percent hit the math proficiency standard. That's compared to 42.4 percent and 54 percent in 2010, the first year after state officials raised the bar to reach that rating. Statewide, reading scores dropped by a tiny amount — 0.4 percentage points — to 52.8 percent proficient, and math scores rose by 2.3 points, to 63.3 percent proficient. State officials sounded a somber tone in their press release announcing the scores. "While the majority of students statewide met or exceeded the state’s proficiency standards in both math and ELA, overall performance remains low and the gaps in achievement persist," the press release said. Mayor Bloomberg is likely to point to city students' relative performance during his press conference later today. But the big story this year is not the scores but the tests themselves.
May 24, 2011
Against the grain, a DOE employee advises on leaving school
Lisa Nielsen: Students should be free to opt out of school. The city Department of Education has adopted a laser-like focus on sending its graduates to college. But that doesn't mean all of its employees are on board. Lisa Nielsen, who works in the DOE's office of educational technology, is advancing the idea that not only is college not for everyone, neither is high school. In the Community section today, Nielsen explains why she put together a guide to help teenagers figure out how to "opt out" of high school and continue learning and developing on their own. She writes: Despite outdated constraints involving issues like seat time, student funding, and resource allocation, we are making progress toward bringing more personalized and engaging learning opportunities to students through a handful of efforts, such as the iSchool and the Innovation Zone. But while students are doing better in a more innovative climate, ultimately we are just using updated tools to meet narrow and outdated measures on which our students, teachers, and school leaders are judged. It is not enough to personalize learning for everyone to go down the same path — to college, without consideration of what comes next. Instead, schools need to embrace the many alternatives to the traditional college route that would better meet the needs of many learners today. What is missing at the DOE is the important work of letting students discover, define, and develop their own passions, talents, and interests and determine personalized, meaningful, and authentic measures of success. Nielsen, who writes the blog The Innovative Educator, told me she hears frequently from teachers who say they fear they are boring students by teaching a test-driven curriculum. But when she tries to talk about the issue with other administrators at the DOE, she told me, it's usually dismissed.
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