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After Graduation

Going Grade-less

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New York

Architects of school grades concede errors as overhaul looms

Warren Simmons, of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, speaks during a panel discussion about New York City's accountability system. Two architects of New York City's controversial school progress reports acknowledged on Tuesday that the accountability system they developed needs to change. Law school professor James Liebman, who devised the A-F grading system "from scratch" in 2007, said the school grades were initially useful as a "powerful motivator of educators to take responsibility" for student learning in their schools. But after six years of relying on a narrow set of data — primarily state test scores and graduation rates —  to hold schools accountable, Liebman said now is a good moment for "toning down on performance management." Liebman's suggestions, which hewed closely to recommendations offered Tuesday by the Department of Education's chief academic officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, come as an overhaul looms for the controversial grading system. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has said he would do away with the school grades, although he hasn't yet said whether he would maintain the underlying data that contributes to them. Liebman and Polakow-Suransky appeared on a panel discussion hosted by the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a think tank run by former state education chief David Steiner, at which Polakow-Suransky released a report called "What's Next for School Accountability in New York City?" The report outlined six areas for de Blasio to consider when he takes over in January.
New York

Unprecedented third straight 'F' for struggling Boys and Girls HS

Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Councilman Al Vann joined Boys and Girls High School Principal Bernard Gassaway to honor the school's boys basketball team for winning the city championships last year. Brooklyn's Boys and Girls High School earned the lowest mark on its city progress report today, making it one of just two schools ever to receive the failing grade three years in a row. The Department of Education has closed many schools that have netted F's since it began awarding the annual grades in 2007, but Boys and Girls has always managed to stay away from the chopping block. It will escape closure again this year, this time because the Bloomberg administration has simply run out of time to shutter any more low-performing schools. Instead, Chancellor Dennis Walcott is scheduled to appear Thursday at Boys and Girls, not to intervene in its academic program but to join the school's powerful supporters to cut the ribbon on a new health center there. But while other department officials previously have supported Principal Bernard Gassaway as he has annually promised improvements that have not materialized, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said today that a school with Boys and Girls' record should be "cause for serious concern." "I think sometimes when something's not working you need to look at bringing in a new team of educators in that school community," Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky of schools with a string of Fs. "It doesn't make sense that that would be off the table, but it's not really our decision to make." People close to the Bedford-Stuyvesant school said today that even though the city hasn't closed the school, the stigma from perennially being labeled as failing is doing the same job, just slowly.
New York

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: