Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Schools Are To Be Graded - A Tale Of Two Schools

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) has decided to grade the public schools based upon testing, attendance, school safety, and even parental involvement. Sounds good right! How can anybody be against a school report card? Well welcome to Chancellor Klein's world of education where he and his non-educators are pushing charter schools, failing that, the next best thing is small schools. The step child in Klein's world is the large comprehensive high schools, steeped in tradition and fame. This story is about two high schools. One a large comprehensive high school the other a small high school with a theme for social justice.

The large comprehensive school, lets call it Pierce high school, has been overcrowded for the past three years as other large schools have closed and the students not selected to the newly-created small schools are dumped into the school. By contrast the small high school , the school of Social Justice, has "screened their students" and does not suffer from overcrowding. Let's get to the statistics.


Pierce high school has a 80% attendance rate while the school for Social Justice had a 93% attendance rate. However, if you dig into the statistics the incoming 8th graders going into the school of Social Justice had a 94% attendance rate compared to a 81% attendance rate for Pierce high school. In reality, the school attendance rates reflect the attendance rate of the middle school students entering the two schools.

Weak Students:

The weakest students in the New York City school system are level 1 students. These are students that test well-below accepted standards. The school for Social Justice has only 10% of the incoming class as level 1 students while Pierce high school was required to accept 35% of the incoming freshmen as level 1 students. Further, of the level 1 students the school of Social Justice took in they made sure that there were no disciplinary problems among them. By contrast Pierce high school had no such discrestion.

Special Needs Children:

On a percentage basis Pierce high school admitted three times as many special needs children than the school of Social Justice. Historically, special needs students don't do as well as other students. These special needs chiildren range from disciplinary problems, slow learners, limited english language students, and emotionally reactive students.

Class Sizes:

The average class size at Pierce high school is 32 students per classroom. At the school of Social Justice the average is 20 students per class. All studies show that when it comes to education; class size matters!

Social Promotion:

Despite DOE denials eigth graders that are labled "promotion in doubt" are promoted anyway and end up in the large comprehensive high schools where that are doomed to failure as they are unready to do high school academics. The small schools like the school of Social Justice rarely, if ever, admit these students.

School Safety:

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize that the more overcrowded the school, the more incidents of bumping and shoving there will be. Unfortunantly, some of the pushing and shoving breaks into fights. The result, a safety report is issued. Large overcrowded high schools will always have more safety incidents than a small school. At Pierce high school not only is it a day school but a regional night school as well. Further, the regional Truency Center is located at the school. According to the DOE all incidents that happen during night school or in the Truency program is assigned to Pierce high school. Not fair you say? Who says it needs to be fair? This is how DOE works.

The report card? Can Pierce high school really compete with the school of Social Justice? I can only bring up the statement the late Rodney Dangerfield said " Its like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest". The answer is no.


NYC Educator said...

Great post. I agree 100%.

I just finished writing about the same thing, although not in quite as much detail.

jonathan said...


I think most of the small schools are not doing as well as one might think, even accounting for their advantages.

I say this to clarify, not to take away any of the force of your post, which makes an important point.

Certainly on the overcrowding front, small schools jammed into alrge overcrowded buildings suffer from overcrowding themselves, even if they are able to protect their class-sizes. Think of the gym, the cafe, the halls... those little things where overcrowding damages the quality of (student) life....

Safety is a different issue. Small schools do better with safety since anonymity is destroyed.