2010-10-08 / School News

School Report Card Grades Fall

After 2009 Embarrassment, DOE Limits A’s, F’s
By Howard Schwach

Last year, 13 of Rockaway’s 20 grade K to 8 schools rated an A on their annual school report cards. This year, that number fell precipitously as only three local schools received the coveted A rating. Four others received B’s and the majority, 10 schools, received a C rating, according to statistics on the Department of Education’s website.

PS/MS 47 in Broad Channel was the only Rockaway school that went up in grade, to an A from a B last year.

Two other schools, PS/MS 197 and the Scholars’ Academy, retained the A grades they received last year.

All of the other local schools stayed the same or went down a grade or two.

Two received a D grade. They are PS/MS 215 in Wavecrest, which received a C grade last year, and the Academy of Medical Technology at the Far Rockaway Educational Campus, which was not rated last year because it was its first full year of operations.

The citywide scores mirrored those of local schools.

Four hundred city schools dropped one full grade this year, while 350 dropped two full grades.

Last year, 97 percent of city schools received either an A or a B grade. This year, only 59 percent of the schools reached that level. Last year, only 20 schools citywide received a C grade. This year, 398 received a C grade.

The distribution of grades was largely predetermined, a Department of Education spokesperson said.

After the clamor when the large percentage of schools received either an A or a B and only seven schools got either a D or an F grade, the city decide that this year, only 25 percent could get anA, 35 percent a B or a C, four percent D’s and one percent F’s. In addition, it was predetermined that a school that got an A last year could do no worse than C and that schools that got a B could do no worse than D this year.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the deputy chancellor for performance and accountability, defended the curve as necessary to ensure fairness in a system where a D or an F on a report card could have serious consequences, including the closing of the school or the removal of its principal.

Polakow-Suransky told New York Times reporters Sharon Otterman and Robert Gebeloff, “When [parents] look at the data closely, they may not be happy with it, but I think it’s a fair and accurate picture.”

One local parent, whose child attends PS/MS 114 and asked not to be identified, said, “With the scores bouncing around so violently each year, it’s hard to know just what they mean. Your child is in an A school one year and gets 81 points out of 100 and then the next year, the same school and basically the same kids, and you’re a B school with only 41 points out of 100. That does not make sense.”

“I saw that one school in Far Rockaway went from an A and 96 points out of 100 to a C and 40 points out of 100 from one year to the next. How can that be possible,” he asked. “It stretches credibility and makes the Department of Education look foolish and incompetent and puts a lie to the mayor’s boast that he and Chancellor Klein have greatly improved the schools.”

In addition, the statistics show that public schools did far better than charter schools in the new report cards.

Only 20 percent of charter schools got an A rating, while 26 percent of public schools got the A rating.

School officials noted the difference as “marginal,” according to a report in the Daily News.

While the city has modified the process by which it comes up with the grades each year, those grades are based largely on student progress (60 points out of 100), performance on standardized tests (25 points out of 100), attendance and surveys prepared by school stakeholders (15 percent). In addition, a school can get up to 15 additional points if it makes “exceptional gains” with students with disabilities, English Language Learners and at-risk students.

There is no “passing score” per se. For example, schools that received as lowas38pointsoutof100gotaCrati ng and PS/MS 197 received an A with only 66 points.

Some locals argue that using student progress for 60 percent of the grade punishes schools such as the Scholars’ Academy, which is comprised mainly of students already reading at level 4 – the highest possible English Language Arts score.

“How can they make progress when they are already at the top and there is no place for their scores to improve?” asked one Scholars’ Academy parent.

In November, the DOE will release report cards for high schools.

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