number crunching

A list of lists about the data beneath the city's progress reports

As any teacher or student can attest, there’s only so much that a letter grade can tell you about the person who earned it, even if it’s an A.

That’s even more true for the city’s progress report grades, released for the 2011-2012 school year on Monday. Schools get a single letter grade after the Department of Education crunches hundreds of data points, using complex algorithms to measure the schools against each other in addition to absolute standards. The department has a small fleet of officials generating the annual grades, and the spreadsheet containing the underlying data for this year’s scores stretched to 240 columns.

We sorted and re-sorted the spreadsheet to look at some of the city’s many measures of school quality in different ways. Here are a few of the most interesting things we found — and leave a comment to share your data-driven observations.

Four of the top five highest-scoring schools also made the top five last year (marked with an asterisk):

It Takes A Village Academy (Brooklyn)*
Manhattan Village Academy (Manhattan)*
Academy for Careers and Television in Film (Queens)
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (Brooklyn)*
Brooklyn International High School (Brooklyn)*

Four of the five lowest-scoring schools are in Manhattan:

Academy for Social Action: A College Board School (Manhattan)
Choir Academy of Harlem (Manhattan)
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School (Manhattan)
Boys and Girls High School (Brooklyn)
High School of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan)

At 49 schools, less than 5 percent of 2008’s ninth-graders graduated this year ready for college. Of them, six got A’s:

School for Excellence (Bronx)
Unity Center for Urban Technologies (Manhattan)
El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Brooklyn)
Pan-American International High School (Bronx)
Frances Perkins Academy (Brooklyn)
The Facing History School (Manhattan)

At five schools, not a single graduate earned a Regents diploma or met CUNY’s basic standards:

FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn) got a B
Performance Conservatory High School (Bronx) is closing
Multicultural High School (Brooklyn) got a D
Opportunity Charter School (Manhattan) did not receive a grade
Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School (Brooklyn) got a D

At three schools, all highly selective, not a single member of the class of 2012 would need remediation at CUNY colleges:

Staten Island Technical High School
Townsend Harris High School
High School of American Studies at Lehman College

Four schools — three of them transfer schools (marked with an asterisk) — benefited from the rule that prevents schools with relatively high graduation rates from scoring lower than a C:

Frederick Douglass Academy (Manhattan)
Innovation Diploma Plus High School (Manhattan)
W.E.B. DuBois Academic High School (Brooklyn)
Bronx Haven High School (Bronx)

The seventeen high schools that the city tried but failed to close through “turnaround” received mixed grades:

Alfred E. Smith CTE High School (Bronx) got a B
August Martin High School (Queens) got a D
Automotive High School (Brooklyn) got a C
Banana Kelly High School (Bronx) got a C
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School (Manhattan) got an F
Bronx High School of Business (Bronx) got a C
Flushing High School (Queens) got a D
Fordham Leadership Academy (Bronx) got an F
Herbert H. Lehman High School (Bronx) got an D
High School Of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan) got an F
John Adams High School (Queens) got a C
John Dewey High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Long Island City High School (Queens) got a C
Newtown High School (Queens) got a B
Richmond Hill High School (Queens) got a C
Sheepshead Bay High School (Brooklyn) got a D
William Cullen Bryant High School (Queens) got a C

As did the 13 high schools the city considered for closure last year but did not try to close:

Academy For Scholarship And Entrepreneurship: A College Board School (Bronx) got a B
Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School (Queens) got a D
Freedom Academy High School (Brooklyn) got an F
Fordham Leadership Academy For Business and Technology (Bronx) got an F
Herbert H. Lehman High School (Bronx) got an D
High School Of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan) got an F
Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (Brooklyn) got a C
Law, Government And Community Service High School (Queens) got a D
Wadleigh Secondary School For Performing Arts (Manhattan) got a C

One charter high school that the city lost a legal fight to close got a grade that works in its favor:

Williamsburg Charter High School (Brooklyn) got a B, up from a C

One school did not get a grade this year because its data raised red flags with department officials:

Bronx Health Sciences High School

Seven schools whose data raised red flags last year got scores this year even though investigations into possible improprieties are not over:

Bronx Aerospace (Bronx) got an A
Bushwick School for Social Justice (Brooklyn) got a B
FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn) got a B
Foundations Academy (Brooklyn) got an F
PULSE (Bronx) got a B
School for International Studies (Brooklyn) got a B
Theatre Arts Production Company (Bronx) got a B

And five other schools where the city opened investigations after an internal audit of academic data got grades anyway:

Brooklyn School for Music and Theater got a B
Fordham Leadership Academy (Bronx) got an F
Fort Hamilton High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Hillcrest High School (Queens) got a B
John Adams High School (Queens) got a C

Nine charter high schools got progress report grades, three for the first time (marked with asterisks):

New Heights Academy Charter School got an A for the third straight year
International Leadership Charter School (Bronx) went from a C to an A
Renaissance Charter School (Queens) got a B
Harlem Village Academy (Manhattan) got a C
Williamsburg Charter High School (Brooklyn) got a B
Bronx Preparatory Charter School (Bronx) fell to a D after two straight C’s
Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School (Manhattan) got an A*
Green Dot Charter High School (Bronx) got an A*
NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industries (Bronx) got a B*

Thirty-seven high schools got progress report grades for the first time because they graduated their first classes. Their grade distribution exactly matched the city average. One school got an F:

Foundations Academy (Brooklyn)

Eighty-four schools did not get progress report grades because they are less than four years old or are phasing out.

To and Through

Newark’s post-grad paradox: More students are entering college, but few earn degrees

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants 25 percent of residents to have college degrees by 2025, up from 19 percent today.

When it comes to college, Newark faces a good news-bad news paradox.

More students than ever are graduating high school and enrolling in college, according to a new report. Yet fewer than one in four Newark students earns a college degree within six years of graduating high school — leaving many with limited job prospects in a city where an estimated one-third of jobs require a four-year college degree.

Now, city officials are promising to build on the report. They want to ramp up the rigor of high-school classes and create more early-college programs to increase the odds of students entering college and leaving with a degree.  

“How do we teach our children to perform — to graduate?” Mayor Ras Baraka asked at a press conference Wednesday to mark the official release of the report of Newark students’ college outcomes. “We got them in the door,” he said of students who attend college. “Now how do we make them stay?”

The city’s plans, to which Superintendent Roger León is lending his support, reflect a growing recognition that simply getting students into college is not sufficient — and can even backfire if they drop out before graduation, leaving them with college debt but no degree.

Until recently, the charge given to high schools in Newark and across the country was to foster “college-going cultures.” And these efforts showed promising results: On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students who graduated high school between 2011 and 2016 immediately enrolled in college, up from 39 percent who did so between 2004 and 2010, according to the report by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, or NCLC, and Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

But entering college didn’t guarantee its completion. Of those students who started college straight after high school, only 39 percent earned a degree within six years, the report found.

As a result, educators and policymakers have begun to think harder about how to help students “to and through” college — to ensure they actually earn degrees. Toward that end, Baraka and the NCLC — which includes roughly 40 colleges, schools, nonprofits, and corporations — has set a goal of 25 percent of Newark residents earning college degrees or comparable credentials by 2025.

Today, just 19 percent of Newark adults have associate degrees or higher — compared to 45 percent of adults across New Jersey and 40 percent nationally.

Superintendent León, who began overseeing the city’s schools on July 1, said his main strategy for supporting these efforts will be to expose students to challenging work early on.

“If we don’t do something dramatically in classrooms to improve instruction and make it rigorous,” León said after Wednesday’s event, then students are “getting into college but they’re not completing it.”

Source: “Post-Secondary Outcomes of Newark High School Graduates (2011-2016)” report. Note: The four-year rate is an average of the classes of 2011 to 2013. The six-year rate is from the class of 2011. Graphic: Sam Park/Chalkbeat

For starters, León said he wants high schools to offer more college-level classes. In the 2016-17 school year, just 21 percent of Newark students were enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — compared to 42 percent of students statewide.

He also vowed to raise the quality of instruction in the district’s traditional high schools. Only 14 percent of their graduates earn college degrees within six years, compared to 42 percent of graduates from the city’s selective magnet schools, the report found.

To do that, León said he will create specialized academies within the traditional schools modeled on the magnets, which have specialized themes such as science, technology, or the arts. The academies, which will partner with colleges, will most likely feature admissions criteria similar to those of magnet schools, which select students based on their academic and attendance records, León added.

And, for the first time, all ninth-grade students this academic year will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, León said Wednesday. An additional 1,100 eighth-graders who passed at least one of their seventh-grade PARCC exams will also take the PSAT when it’s administered on Oct. 10.

Since 2016, the district has provided the PSAT to all 10th and 11th-grade students. But León said that giving the test to younger students will focus their attention on college and help identity those who are ready for advanced classes. The PSAT is designed to help students prepare for the SAT, which is used in college admissions, and to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The district, which was under state control for 22 years until February, is getting some assistance in its effort to improve students’ college outcomes.

For instance, KIPP, the national charter-school network with eight schools in Newark, is sharing its strategies for helping students choose the right college with guidance counselors at three district high schools.

And the higher-education institutions in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, including Essex County College and Rutgers University-Newark, plan to create more “dual-enrollment” programs that allow high-school students to earn college credits, said NCLC Executive Director Reginald Lewis.

“We’re all going to do a better job,” Lewis said, “of making sure that once Newark residents get in our doors, that we help them persist.”

Time crunch

In victory for teachers union, Newark superintendent scraps longer hours for low-performing schools

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Roger León at Hawkins Street School, one of the schools that will lose its extended hours.

Newark’s new superintendent is eliminating a program that extended the hours of struggling schools, which the teachers union has long attacked as ineffective and unfair to educators.

Teachers at roughly 30 schools will no longer receive $3,000 annual stipends for the extra hours, a provision written into the current teachers contract, which extends to 2019. Instead, all 64 district schools will get extra funding for before and after-school programs, Superintendent Roger León said in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 10, resulting in new hours for the affected schools just days after the new school year began. The district is still working to adjust pickup times for students who are bused to school, according to León’s email. A few of the schools will phase out their extended hours later in the year, the email said.

“We will not continue to do the same things as before and be surprised when the results do not change,” León wrote, adding that cutting the extra hours would save the district $5 million.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Thursday, León said the move is intended to create more uniformity among schools and the services they provide. Now, all schools will get additional money to pay for programs outside of the regular school day, which schools can tailor to their individual needs, though students who are struggling academically will continue to receive “intensive” support, he said.

“Ultimately, the idea would be by October having completely different after-school and before-school programming that meets the needs of each respective school,” León said.

The extended time was first included in the teachers contract in 2012 as part of a larger improvement plan for the targeted schools, which was developed by Cami Anderson, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent. The plan also designated some low-performing schools as “renew” schools, where teachers had to reapply for their positions and work longer hours.

Anderson also closed some schools and gave principals new hiring authority. Both actions left dozens of tenured teachers without positions, so Anderson created a fund to pay those teachers to perform support duties in schools. In 2014, that fund for “employees without placement” cost the district $35 million out of its nearly $1 billion budget, though by last year the fund had shrunk to $8 million for about 100 unassigned teachers, according to officials.

León said in Tuesday’s email that he was also eliminating the fund, which he said would save the district another $6 million. The teachers union president said he believed all the unassigned teachers now have placements, but the district did not respond to a request to confirm that.

León is also removing the “renew” and “turnaround” labels from low-performing schools, citing their “progress and student achievement,” according to the email.

“I applaud everyone’s efforts at renew or turnaround schools and acknowledge what has been accomplished,” he wrote.

Now that León has abolished his predecessors’ school-improvement program, he will be expected to create his own. Many schools remain mired in poor performance, even as the district overall has made strides in recent years.

When the teachers union agreed to the extended hours in its 2012 contract with the district, it was hailed nationally as a major breakthrough in efforts to revamp troubled schools. But even as the union agreed last year to keep the provision in its current contract, union officials have assailed the turnaround effort as a failure.

NTU President John Abeigon told Chalkbeat on Thursday that the program had been a “scam” and “nothing more than extended childcare.” He added that the stipend teachers received amounted to about $7 per hour for the extra time they worked.

In 2016, a district-commissioned survey of 787 teachers at schools with extended hours found that two-thirds of teachers at schools where the extra time was spent on student instruction said the time was valuable. But in a survey the union conducted in April, the 278 teachers who responded gave the extended hours low ratings for effectiveness in boosting student achievement.

Some teachers in the union survey praised the longer hours, saying their schools used them effectively to lengthen class periods, run after-school clubs, or allow teachers to plan lessons or review student data. But others said the extra time was squandered, leaving staff and students exhausted with little evidence of improved student outcomes to show for it. (Students’ pass rates on state tests stayed flat or declined at most “renew” schools in the first years of the program.)

The union also has complained that many teachers felt compelled to work the extra hours because those who refused to could be transferred to different schools. Under the terms of the original extended-day agreement, teachers were required to work an extra hour per day and attend trainings during the summer and some weekends.

In León’s email to employees, he said every extended-day school had set different work requirements and “none are consistent with the original design.” The longer days may also be contributing to high teacher turnover in those schools, he wrote, adding that principals of schools with regular hours told him they did not want to extend their hours.

Abeigon, the union president, applauded León’s decision to scrap the extra work hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” he said.

León said Thursday that he is now working on a new turnaround program. Once it’s ready, he promised to share the details with affected families before publicly announcing which schools are part of it — an effort to avoid the student protests that erupted when Anderson identified her “turnaround” schools.

He also said he was still considering whether he would ever close schools that fail to improve or to reverse their declining enrollments. Anderson’s decision to shutter nearly a dozen long-struggling schools continues to fuel resentment among her critics even years later.

“I think the whole idea of how much time does a school get to correct itself is a very important one and I’m going to need to be really reflective on it,” León said. “I’ve seen what closing schools does with people who do not feel that they were aware of it or a part of fixing it.”