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School report cards stabilize after years of unpredictability
Posted By Geoff Decker On September 23, 2011 @ 4:49 pm In Newsroom | 13 Comments
After years of volatility, letter grades on progress reports for the city’s elementary and middle schools are the most stable and accurate they’ve ever been, according to Department of Education officials.
Queens schools had the highest grades on this year’s city progress reports, which were released today, and charter schools received higher scores, on average, than schools across the city. Of the 1,219 schools to receive grades in this year’s reports, 298 schools received an A, 411 received a B, 354 received a C, 79 received a D and 32 received an F.
The city graded schools on a curve, so that 60 percent scored either an A or a B; 30 percent received C’s; and 10 percent received D’s or F’s – twice as many as last year.
That means new additions to the city’s list of schools that it will consider closing. Schools that received a D or F, or three consecutive years of C or lower, are automatically added to the list of potential closures. Last year, 62 schools fell into that group, but this year, the total was 116.
It is the fifth year that the city has issued the reports, which assess schools based heavily on students’ state test scores and their improvement since last year, as well as attendance rates, and feedback from parents, students, and teachers. Schools also earn extra credit for progress made by students with disabilities and English language learners. For the first time this year, schools whose low-performing black and Latino boys made gains also got extra credit.
“By acknowledging progress in schools that help struggling students, we can keep more students on track during elementary and middle school,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.
Changing standards on state tests over the past two years had thrown the DOE’s progress reports into a cycle of unpredictability. Inflated test scores in 2009 resulted in just two schools receiving F’s, while 84 percent earned A’s . Last year, after state tests became harder to pass, almost 70 percent of schools saw their grades drop  and a third of schools saw their grades swing – mostly downward – by two or more letters.
This year, the department touted adjustments to the reports and pointed to the fact that most schools’ letter grades didn’t change much: 88 percent of schools received the same rating as last year or rose or fell by just one letter grade.
In a briefing with reporters this morning, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said the formula changes — which he said were made after consulting with principals — have led to the most accurate portrayal yet of what the city wants to see from its schools.
“We met with networks to make sure we got it right and we’re hearing from principals that it makes a lot of sense this year,” Polakow-Suransky said.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew criticized the reports for their heavy emphasis on test scores and said that they offer all information and no instruction for improvement.
“It’s like 20 doctors standing around telling you what’s wrong, but nobody’s lifting a finger to help,” he said. “I would rather have a report that diagnoses a school’s problem and came up with recommendations to rectify them.”
Here’s a link to all of this year’s progress reports , but we threw in some other highlights below:
A few other highlights:
Article printed from GothamSchools: http://gothamschools.org
URL to article: http://gothamschools.org/2011/09/23/school-report-cards-stabilize-after-years-of-unpredictability/
URLs in this post:
 two schools receiving F’s, while 84 percent earned A’s: http://gothamschools.org/2009/09/02/just-two-fs-amid-nearly-straight-as-on-2009-progress-reports/#more-22224
 70 percent of schools saw their grades drop: http://gothamschools.org/2010/09/30/most-schools-grades-drop-as-city-releases-report-cards/
 link to all of this year’s progress reports: http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/report/default.htm#Citywide
 here: http://www.nyccharterschools.org/meet/blog/761-progressreports2010-11
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