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Middle School Grades Reflect High School Prep

Monday, October 01, 2012 - 01:18 PM

2:38 p.m. | Updated Letter grades awarded to city elementary and middle schools on Monday in the latest round of Progress Reports from the Department of Education reflect a broader range of data, including how well middle school students are prepared for high school.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said this year's middle school grades don't just include student performance on state exams. Instead, the grades also take note of how students fare in core subjects and how many eighth graders complete accelerated high school courses.

“Our elementary and middle schools build on the foundation of early learning to set our students on a path for college and career readiness,” he said. “By measuring how well our schools prepare students for high school, the Progress Reports set the right goals for success in these formative grades.”

Future progress reports for middle schools will look at how eighth graders actually perform as ninth graders. Education officials on Monday highlighted five schools which excel by this measure, including Harbor Heights in Washington Heights, Manhattan; P.S. 89 Cypress Hills in East New York, Brooklyn; Explore Charter School in Flatbush, Brooklyn; New Voices School of Academic & Creative Arts in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn; and Middle School of Marketing and Legal Studies in East Flatbush.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's chief academic officer, urged families who want to look up the score for their child's school to take into account these more holistic measures, including the school's latest Quality Review, another evaluation of how well the school supports student achievement. This year, both the progress report score and the Quality Review score are listed side-by-side on the report.

Progress reports have been given out since 2007. They award each school an overall grade of A-F based on three categories: student progress (60 percent), student performance (25 percent) and school environment (15 percent). Environment includes student attendance, as well as feedback from parents, students, and teachers about their schools. Schools received additional credit for progress made with students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and black and Latino boys whose prior performance is within the lowest third citywide.

This year, the top 25 percent of schools received A's, 35 percent received B's, 31 percent received C's, 7 percent received D's, and 23 schools in the bottom 2 percent got F's. Schools with the lowest marks are at risk of being closed by the city.

Charter schools continued to score high, with 46 percent of the privately managed public schools earning A's.

The city says grades remained stable for most schools. Eighty-six percent of the nearly 1,200 elementary and middle schools did not change by more than one letter grade since last year.

But 114 schools received C's for three years in a row, a big leap from five last year. In the past, schools that earned three C's in a row were at risk for closure.

Seventy-five percent of a school's score comes from comparing it to a "peer group" of about 40 other schools with similar demographics. The remaining 25 percent is based on a comparison with all schools citywide serving the same grades.

High school grades will be released later this month. The city's calculations will take into account how many students at each high school earn enough credits and scored well enough on their state exams to be considered ready for college. The state has found huge gaps between the number of students who graduate and the number who have a good chance of passing their freshman year of college.

As soon as SchoolBook receives complete data for all schools we will update the individual school pages. We hope that readers will go to individual school pages and comment about what the data show -- or don't.

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