Analysing the Report Cards
October 1st, 2010

Time for the annual fall ritual of slicing and dicing the results of the school progress reports, while a the same time pointing out they may not mean much at all. As we noted yesterday, the results for middle and elementary schools came out yesterday, with a mere (if you can say that) 25 percent of schools scoring A’s, as opposed to 84 percent in 2009.

Still, only 1 percent failed. The city kept the number of flunking schools low when it decided to limit how much a school’s grade could plummet from one year to the next. So since hardly any school received a C or less in 2009, almost no one could fail in 2010.

In her analysis, Kim Gittleson found charter schools in general had lower grades than traditional public schools, reflecting the fact that the charter’s test results also dropped more under the state’s new scoring scale for standardized test. So, for example, 20 percent of charters got an A, compared to 25 percent for regular pubic schools. At the other end, 8.3 percent of charter got D’s and 1.7percent F’s, compared to public schools where the respective figures were 4 percent and 1 percent. (Her post includes a chart showing how all charter schools fared.)

The relatively poor performance of charters “means that either the strategy Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor [Joel] Klein have touted so often for school reform — the creation of more charter schools — isn’t working, or that the entire progress-report methodology, which relies almost completely on standardized test scores, is flawed,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told the Post.

James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Schools Center said that “it’s hard to know what to make of these grades,” but that he would expect leaders at charters that scored poorly to “figure out why that is.”

But that might be difficult — and might not be worth doing.

“Given the fact that that school grades bounce up and down each year, most teachers, administrators and even parents have long figured out how they should be discounted, and justifiably believe that any administration that would punish or reward a school based on such invalid measures is not to be trusted,” Leonie Haimson wrote.

“Take these grades with a very large grain of salt,” Clara Hemphill advised parents on Inside Schools. “There is a lot of year-to-year fluctuation in test scores, and the city has been changing its formula for grading schools each year. Schools that focus on improving tests scores on reading and math may get a higher grade than schools that have broader goals..”

That of course comes as scant comfort to those at low scoring schools, particularly since the Department of Education uses the scores to award bonuses on one hand and shut down or reorganize failing schools on the other.

And what is a parent to do? Take the case of Jermaine Harrison whose son, the Times reported, is a second grader at PS 166 on the Upper West Side. “When it was time for him to go to school, we did the research and found the school with better scores,” Harrison said. “At the time he got in, the grade was a B, so I thought he would get a better education.”

This week PS166 saw its grade fall to a D.

By on October 1, 2010, 4:32 pm
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