1999-11-20 / Columnists

School Scope

by Howard Schwach

There were few surprises on the standardized test scores recently released by the Board of Education. In fact, it was more of the same thing even though new tests were used in many cases.

Among the city’s top schools in the eighth grade English Language Arts test were the NYC Lab School, Mark Twain, the Bay Academy the Petrides School and the like.

Each of those schools is a magnet school, drawing selected students from a large area. None of them was a "community school" as such.

The Bay Academy, in fact, can thank the kids in Neponsit and Belle Harbor for its high score. Those are all kids who were zoned for JHS 180. Had they stayed, that school might have a much higher score.

That’s because the kids have the scores, not the school and those kids often take those scores with them when they go elsewhere looking for an education.

The worst schools, on the other hand were all community schools, which draw only from the local area and have no selectivity in who enters the school. Many good students leave. Few opt to stick around.

The best of the "community schools" are in District 26. That district encompasses the upper middle class areas of Flushing, Whitestone and the like.

Does it surprise you those middle class schools and magnet schools do better in the test than all minority community schools. It does not surprise me and it should not surprise you.

District 27 scores on the fourth grade math test once again prove that point:

School

Area

Percentage above grade level

PS 47

Broad Channel

73%

PS 105

Edgemere

11%

PS 42

Arverne

33%

PS 114

Belle Harbor

88%

PS 207

Howard Beach

63%

PS 223

South

Jamaica

22%

The scores on the eighth grade English Language Arts Test are also informative:

School

Area

Percent-

age over grade level

IS 53

Far Rockaway

23%

JHS 180

Rockaway Beach

19%

JHS 198

Arverne

6%

JHS 202

Ozone

Park

39%

JHS 226

So.

Ozone

Park

36%

While none of the scores on the eighth grade test were great, it is clear that the kids in middle class areas did much better than those in all-minority areas. JHS 180 fared badly because all of their high readers went off in the last two years to District 21 and they raised the scores in those schools to make them among the highest in the city. Factor them in and JHS 180’s scores would have been the equal of those at JHS 202 and JHS 226.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at some of the Nassau County schools, where the community is much more middle class, where class size is much lower and where teachers earn a much higher salary.

First, the fourth grade math tests:

School

Area

Percentage above grade level

PS 47

Broad Channel

73%

PS 114

Belle Harbor

88%

Lawrence

Five Towns

90%

Lynbrook

Lynbrook

89%

Uniondale

Hempstead

58%

Malverne

Malverne

62%

On the eighth grade ELA Test:

School

Area

Percentage over

Grade

Level

JHS 202

Ozone Park

39%

JHS 226

So.

Ozone

Park

36%

Lawrence

Five

Towns

61%

Freeport

Freeport

37%

Roosevelt

Roosevelt

16%

Uniondale

Hempstead

31%

Baldwin

Baldwin

52%

Kids in middle class areas do well. Kids in minority areas do not, no matter what the funding or what the teacher’s pay.

It’s the kids who make the scores, not the teachers or the administrators. If you took the teachers and administrators from Lawrence and put them in Roosevelt, would those scores go up 40 points? Of course not. It’s the kids, stupid.

At Junior High School 198 they are working hard to get the scores up. They get kids who are reading in the first quartile (0-25 percentile) up to the second quartile (26-49 percentile). It is a prodigious feat, but it does not count, because those kids are still below grade level and therefore do not count on the "good" side of the ledger.

The scores are meaningless, yet superintendents, principals and teachers are fired because of them.

Some of the lowest performing schools in the city are in the Chancellor’s District. Do we fire the chancellor? Of course not, because he knows that it’s the kids. We do, however, fire others for the same reason.

What a city! What a system! More next week.

 

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