Some Random Thoughts On School Report Cards
Raise your hand if you would rather see your child attend PS/MS 47 in Broad Channel, than either PS/MS 114 or the Scholars'Academy.
I don't see many hands. I thought that would be the case.
Not that there's anything wrong with PS 47, but the conventional wisdom has always been that PS 114 was the "best" elementary school in the area and that the Region 5 Scholars' Academy, which takes only kids with high 3's and 4's in standardized tests, was far and away the highest performing in the entire Region.
Then came the Department of Education's report cards, which were released last week.
Those report cards give both PS 114 and the Scholars' Academy grades of B. PS 47 received a grade of A, the only one in the area to do so.
How were the report card scores derived?
There were actually four indicators used to come up with a grade ranging from a perfect score of 100 and working down from there. Like most grades, the grades on the report cards were based on a curve.
The lowest grades in Rockaway were given (I won't say earned) by PS 105 (33.5 and a D) and PS/MS 225 (38.0 and a D). The lowest C went to PS/MS 183, which got 39.5 points out of 100. I don't know about you, but students in my class who averaged 39.5 got an F.
The four indicators that were used to come up with the final score and the letter grade were "Environment," "Performance," 'Progress" and "Additional Credit."
The points earned for "Environment" come from the surveys provided to students, school staff and parents earlier in the year. The survey results were translated into points, so schools that had few surveys returned and were poorly rated by those who sent them back got fewer points. Environment was worth 15 out of 100 points.
It's interesting to see that the school with the second highest amount of Environment points, PS/MS 105 (9.3 out of 15) received a D. So much for input from the stakeholders.
The school that did best on Environmental points was the Scholars' Academy, with 12.8 out of 15.
"Performance," of course, relates only to the standardized tests. That category was worth 30 out of 100 points - twice as much as what the stakeholders thought of the school. As you would expect, the top schools got high scores in performance, because they have a preponderance of highlevel students. The Scholars' Academy got 28.0 points out of 30, the highest in the local area. PS/MS 114 got 22.8 out of 30. PS/MS 47 got 20.6 out of 30. There were, however, some surprises. PS 106, a school that I attended from kindergarten to the eighth grade (when I started at PS 106, World War II was raging) got 23.6 points out of 30 and still wound up with a C.
Do you really believe that student performance at PS 106 is better than the student performance at PS/MS 114? If so, I have a nice bridge you might want to buy. Call me, and we'll finalize your deed.
Next, we come to "Progress," the most important component, because it is worth 55 points. It is also, in my opinion, the most flawed of the components because schools with the top students, those already at high level 3's and 4's were punished, because those students could progress very little. At best, they could achieve a perfect 4. There are no 5's.
PS/MS 114, for example, received 26.7 points out of 55 in this category. The Scholars' Academy did much worse, scoring 19.1 points out of 55. Can you explain to me how the school could have done any better, when more than 90 percent of its students are already perfect on the reading and math standardized tests? How does one make progress when it is already near perfection?
Unfortunately, there are no educators making the decisions at the DOE and they do not understand that concept.
PS/MS 47 got the highest score in this category, 46.4 out of 55.
The final category, "Additional Credit," can be called the stealth category. It measures each school against the ten schools above it on the city list and the ten schools below it, as well as others with similar demographics. The problem is that only the principal of the school knows which other schools are in their "cohort" and most of them aren't spilling the beans.
Suffice it to say that PS 197, which had middle-of-the-road scores in all the other categories, got 7.5 additional points, enough to push it to 56.2 points and a B rating.
Remember that I said the scores were ranked on a curve.
Schools with 67.6 to 103.6 received an A rating. To my mind, 67 is a solid D, but what do I know after teaching for 33 years.
Schools with 48.8 to 67.5 received a B. Those with 35.1 to 26.5 got a C. Talk about "Gentlemen's C's."
Schools with 28.9 to 35.1 points got a D, while F's went to those with from 9.2 points to 28.9 points.
Only five percent got an F and no school in Rockaway achieved that low grade.
The great majority got either a B or C.
As for our high schools, Far Rockaway received 31.7 points out of 100, a solid D. Beach Channel fared better, with 41.2 points and a C.
Channel View School for Research, the only K-12 school on the peninsula, and one that is highly regarded by parents and staff, received a solid C, with 50 points out of 100.
There were three local schools that were not graded: The Goldie Maple Academy, a K-8 school that took over from the former JHS 198 and has been in existence for only a year; The Frederick Douglass Academy VI at Far Rockaway High School and the Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI, better known as KAPPA VI, also at Far Rockaway High School. In fact, none of the new, small academies were rated.
I believe that the mayor, who has a vested interest in seeing the small schools succeed, does not want anybody to know just how badly they are doing. Some of those schools have been open for two or more years, enough time to get a reading that would generate a grade.
The same holds true with the parochial schools. While those schools are obviously not rated by the city, they are beholden to the State Department of Education, an agency that steadfastly refuses to publish either reading or math scores results for the local parochial schools, even to the point of illegally resisting freedom of information requests for the most up-to-date scores.
In any case, people know what their children's schools are like. They don't need the DOE to tell them, especially when that agency and the people who run it have no idea what education really means.