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Monday, September 29, 2008

School Report Cards

A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Education released its annual public school report cards. Each school received a grade - A through F.

This year, 64 Bronx schools received an A. At the other end of the scale, seven were slapped with an F. In 2007, the first year grades were given, these numbers were 65 and 10 respectively (if my math is correct). On the surface, then, there hasn’t been much of a change. But some schools received radically different grades to last year. PS 92 in East Tremont, for example, has gone from an A to an F.

See here for the 2008 figures, and here for 2007’s.

Not everyone has warmed to the DOE’s new report cards. Last year, for instance, P.S. 79 on Creston Avenue received an F. Later it was announced that the school was being phased out because of poor performance. Teachers were furious, calling the grade and the closure grossly unjust.

School grades are determined by the percentage of students passing state tests, the improvement of these test scores over time, and the school’s environment. In a meeting with reporters last Friday, Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers, said the grading system is incredibly complicated. “No one can understand how it all works,” he said.

Casey says that schools should be graded over a longer period of time – ideally three years. “A school doesn’t change radically overnight,” he said. He’d also like to see graduation rates factored in.

Randi Weingarten, the UFT's president, says the results have left many New Yorkers bewildered.

Joel Klein, the DOE’s chancellor, on the other hand, says the grades are fair and necessary. "Most parents in the city will want this information," he told reporters last Friday. (Both the meeting with Klein and the one with the UFT were organized by the New York Community Media Alliance.)

"Most people don’t in the end like accountability," Klein said in explaining the criticism the report cards have received. He added that the DOE has a monopoly on education in the city - which more or less guarantees jobs for life - but that shouldn't stop teachers and schools from being critiqued.

Does anyone have thoughts on this? What do students, teachers, or parents out there think about the grade their school received? We’ll have more about these report cards in Thursday’s Norwood News and October’s Mount Hope Monitor.


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