2008-09-19 / School News

Ups And Downs Of School Report Cards

By Howard Schwach

This year's public school report cards are in, and they have lots of people shaking their heads.

The Scholars' Academy, which consists only of students who score in the highest ranges of the standardized tests to earn admission, received a grade of B.

PS 114 in Belle Harbor, which has always been thought of as the "best" elementary school in Rockaway, and which regularly scored in the top ten list of city schools when such a list existed in the Board of Education days, scored a C, down from last year's B rating.

The Goldie Maple Academy, which morphed from Junior High School 198 in Arverne, and always rated as one of the lowest performing schools in the city, was one of two Rockaway schools to earn an A. The other was PS 215 in Wavecrest, which received a B rating last year.

While there were no schools that received an F rating, there were two that received D's - PS/MS 42 in Arverne, which received a B last year, and PS/MS 225, which received a D last year as well.

All told, two Rockaway schools were rated as A, six were rated as B, eight as C and two as D.

The most precipitous drop was made by PS 42, from B last year to D this year.

PS 47 in Broad Channel, which was the only school in Rockaway with an A last year, fell to B.

No high schools were rated in this cycle, but Department of Education officials say that those ratings will be forthcoming.

Schools are rated in three areas: School Environment, Student Performance and Student Progress. Additional points are awarded for schools that do well in those categories as matched against its "peer schools," schools that are made up of students with a similar demographic.

School Environment, which comes from an evaluation of parent, teacher and student evaluations of the school in several areas, is worth 15 points.

Student Performance, which is measured strictly on achievement on the two high-stakes standardized tests, is worth 25 points.

Student Progress, which measures how well students do from one year to the next on reading and math standardized tests, is worth 60 points.

A possible 15 points in additional credit can be awarded to schools that show "exemplary gains among high-need students."

To earn an A rating, a K-8 school must have scored in the range of 66.7 to 98.5 points.

To earn a B rating, a school must have scored in the range of 49.7 to 66.6 points.

C schools scored in the range of 38.4 to 49.6 points.

D schools scored in the range of 23.4 to 38.3 points.

Some local parents, particularly those whose students attend the Scholars' Academy, argue that the rating system is skewed against those schools that have a preponderance of gifted students.

"If all of the students in the school are already scoring fours - the highest rating - in both math and reading, how can they progress as much as a school that has lots of kids who are ones and twos who move up one level," questions one parent, who asked to remain anonymous. "Look at Scholars'. It scored almost 13 out of 15 on the Environment section and 22 out of 25 on the Performance section. On the Progress section, it earned only 25 out of 60. Of course there was little progress. Everybody was already at the top level. This is the most ridiculous thing I ever saw. The school is being punished for running a gifted program that takes only bright students."

The Department of Education, however, defends its report card program, saying that they best represent what is going on in the individual schools, adding that there will be sanctions against principals whose schools did poorly two years in a row and that those principals who showed gains will be rewarded with more funds for their schools.

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