Study Finds Fault with Grading System of Public Schools

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New York City’s system for awarding letter grades A through F to public high schools needs some tweaking, according to a study commissioned by the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools.

The progress reports, which help parents and students choose among the city’s schools, compare each school to 40 “peer” schools that are largely grouped by test scores of incoming eighth-graders. In the study, researchers say the groups are too broad and don’t take into account enough factors outside of a school’s control, like the poverty rate or the percentage of students with special needs.

By lumping together schools with different demographics, the authors argue that schools with high numbers of minority, poor and special-needs students end up receiving low grades.

“It systematically disadvantages some schools,” said Sean Corcoran, the report’s lead author and a New York University professor.

In the past, schools with failing grades have been more likely to face closure.

Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said that the city has considered, and will continue to consider, adjusting the grading algorithm, but is not convinced that would drastically change grades.