Top Tens

Eight top 10s from New York City’s 2016 test scores

PHOTO: Shannan Muskopf via Flickr

The percentage of New York City students passing their state English tests spiked nearly eight points this year and math pass rates also improved, giving city officials reason to celebrate. It’s worth noting, however, that the average proficiency scores on both exams still hovered below 40 percent.

In the lists below, we take a closer look at which schools are at the top or bottom of city rankings when it comes to proficiency on the two tests. We also break out which schools have seen the largest changes in performance (both positive and negative) since last year, measured by the percent change in their average scaled score.

Top city schools in English proficiency:

  1. P.S. 77 Lower Lab School (98.3 percent proficient)
  2. Success Academy Crown Heights, Brooklyn 7 (98.2)
  3. Baccalaureate School for Global Education (96.8)
  4. Success Academy Charter School – Bed-Stuy 1 (95.6)
  5. The Christa McAuliffe School/I.S. 187 (95.5)
  6. The Anderson School (95.3)
  7. Tag Young Scholars (94.1)
  8. Special Music School (94.0)
  9. Concourse Village Elementary School (93.8)
  10. New Explorations Into Science, Technology and Math High School (93.6)

Nearly all the top schools on this list have selective admissions. Four of them are citywide gifted and talented programs, while Concourse Village will start a district-wide gifted and talented program this year. Though the Success Academy network uses a lottery rather than selective admissions, the two schools listed above have English language learner populations of less than 5 percent, while ELLs comprise 14 percent of the population in non-charter schools.

Bottom city schools in English proficiency:

  1. Academy for New Americans (1.1 percent proficient)
  2. New Directions Secondary School (2.3)
  3. P.S. 174 Dumont (2.5)
  4. The School for the Urban Environment (3.3)
  5. Harbor Heights (4.2)
  6. South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School (4.5)
  7. Essence School (4.8)
  8. Red Hook Neighborhood School (4.9)
  9. Entrada Academy (5.0)
  10. M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar (5.1)

All the lowest-scoring schools serve high-need populations. Three — Essence, Entrada and M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar — are in the city’s Renewal program for struggling schools. New Directions serves overage students who are off-track in middle school, while Harbor Heights and the Academy for New Americans enroll newly arrived immigrants who may have limited prior schooling. Unlike last year, no school had a zero percent pass rate in 2016. Three of the worst-performing schools — School for the Urban Environment, Harbor Heights, and Essence — were also on last year’s list. P.S. 174 is being phased out, and Urban Environment closed at the end of this year.

Top city schools in math proficiency:

  1. Success Academy Crown Heights, Brooklyn 7 (100 percent proficient)
  2. Success Academy Fort Greene, Brooklyn 5 (100)
  3. Success Academy Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan 2 (100)
  4. Success Academy Charter School – Bed-Stuy 1 (99.5)
  5. Success Academy Charter School – Bronx 1 (99.3)
  6. Baccalaureate School for Global Education (99.1)
  7. Concourse Academy Village Elementary School (98.8)
  8. Success Academy Union Square, Manhattan 1 (98.8)
  9. Success Academy Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 6 (98.1)
  10. P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence (98.0)

Success Academy charter schools are known for high test scores, particularly in math, but they dominated this year’s list, taking seven out of 10 of the top slots. That’s even better than last year, when they took five out of 10.

Bottom city schools in math proficiency:

  1. Orchard Collegiate Academy (0 percent proficient)
  2. Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts (0)
  3. New Directions Secondary School (0)
  4. P.S. 174 Dumont (0)
  5. Kappa IV (0.7)
  6. Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (1.1)
  7. Performance School (1.8)
  8. Lyons Community School (2.0)
  9. M.S. 328 Manhattan Middle School for Scientific Inquiry (2.3)
  10. East Fordham Academy for the Arts (2.3)

Three schools on this list were also on last year’s list of low performers — New Directions Secondary School, East Fordham Academy for the Arts and Lyons Community School, which Chalkbeat wrote about in 2014. M.S. 328 will absorb a school that shares the same building. Performance School closed this year, and P.S. 174 Dumont is being phased out.

Biggest positive change in English scale scores (not proficiency):

  1. P.S 5 Dr. Ronald McNair (+14.7%)
  2. P.S. 191 Paul Robeson (+11.6%)
  3. Fairmont Neighborhood School (+10.8%)
  4. P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen (+10.1%)
  5. The Walton Avenue School (+8.7%)
  6. Bronx Charter School for Children (+8.1%)
  7. P.S. 120 Carlos Tapia (+7.8%)
  8. P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly (+7.5%)
  9. Academy for Young Writers (+7.2%)
  10. M.S. 596 Peace Academy (+7.0%)

Overall, schools saw bigger improvements this year compared to last. The pass rate at P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair shot up from around 9 percent last year to 57.7 percent this year. But that school’s enrollment has also been falling continuously — 163 students took the test in 2013, but only 71 did this year. M.S. 596 Peace Academy, which posted a solid 7-point gain, is a Renewal school that closed at the end of the year.

Biggest negative change in English scale scores (not proficiency):

  1. Central Park East I (-7.5%)
  2. Institute for Collaborative Education (-2.8%)
  3. P.S. 73 Thomas S. Boyland (-2.5%)
  4. P.S. 230 Dr. Roland N. Patterson (-2.4%)
  5. P.S. 174 Dumont (-2.2%)
  6. P.S. 308 Clara Cardwell (-2.1%)
  7. P.S. 346 Abe Stark (-2.0%)
  8. The School for the Urban Environment (-1.8%)
  9. P.S. 167 The Parkway (-1.7%)
  10. P.S. 36 Unionport (-1.6%)

The declining performance of Central Park East 1, on both English and math scores, will no doubt fuel criticism of the school’s new principal, Monika Garg, who was appointed last summer. Some parents and staffers argue that she’s making the school less progressive and more traditional in its approach. Most of the other drops were relatively modest compared to last year. Two of the other schools on this list — P.S. 73 Thomas S. Boyland and P.S. 230 Dr. Roland N. Patterson — recently closed, and P.S. 174 Dumont is being phased out.

Biggest positive change in math scale scores (not proficiency):

  1. P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair (+14.7%)
  2. M.S. 267 Math, Science & Technology (+8.9%)
  3. P.S. 191 Paul Robeson (+8.4%)
  4. Imagine Me Leadership Charter School (+8.2%)
  5. Bronx Charter School for Children (+8.0%)
  6. Staten Island Community Charter School (+7.2%)
  7. P.S. 64 Pura Belpré (+6.2%)
  8. South Bronx Charter School for International Culture and the Arts (+6.1%)
  9. P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly (+6.0%)
  10. American Dream Charter School (+6.0%)

Once again, P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald McNair tops the list of most improved schools, despite the fact that its numbers have dwindled. In 2015, Chalkbeat wrote that test scores at some charter schools, including Imagine Me Leadership Charter School, may benefit from the departure of lower performing students, who often return to district schools in the middle of the year. Another school on this list, P.S. 64 Pura Belpré, is being phased out.

Biggest negative change in math scale scores (not proficiency):

  1. Central Park East I (-8.1%)
  2. Teachers Preparatory High School (-7.8%)
  3. New Directions Secondary School (-6.4%)
  4. P.S. 44 Marcus Garvey (-5.5%)
  5. P.S. 56 Lewis H. Latimer (-5.5%)
  6. P.S. 346 Abe Stark (-5.4%)
  7. P.S./I.S. 224 (-5.3%)
  8. Bronx Dance Academy School (-5.3%)
  9. School of the Future Brooklyn (-5.3%)
  10. Fahari Academy Charter School (-5.1%)

Central Park East I also topped the list for biggest negative change in math as the school’s principal faces pushback. P.S. 56 Lewis H. Latimer’s enrollment has been on the decline, from more than 400 in 2006 to 200 in 2016. The city moved to close Fahari Academy in 2015, but the school pushed back and remained open this year. In May, it once again seemed set to close.

Editor’s note: For the bottom four categories, we chose to look at scale scores, rather than proficiency rates, when looking for big changes this year in order to capture shifts that might not have pushed students across the threshold between levels 2 and 3, but are still notable. 

awards season

For the first time in two decades, New York’s Teacher of the Year hails from New York City — and West Africa

PHOTO: New York State Education Department
Bronx International High School teacher Alhassan Susso, center, is New York State's 2019 Teacher of the Year.

An immigrant from West Africa who teaches social studies to immigrant students in the Bronx is New York State’s newest Teacher of the Year.

Alhassan Susso, who works at International Community High School in Mott Haven, received the award Tuesday, becoming the first New York City teacher to do so since 1998.

As the state’s Teacher of the Year, Susso will travel the state to work with local educators — and will represent New York in the national competition at a time when federal authorities are aggressively seeking to limit immigration.

A decorated teacher with significant vision impairment since childhood, Susso came to New York from Gambia at 16 and had a rocky experience at his upstate high school, which he chronicled in an autobiography he published in 2016. Assuming that he would struggle academically because he was an immigrant, even though English is the official language of Gambia, his teachers assigned him to a remedial reading class. There, he found a compassionate teacher who was attentive to the diverse needs of her students, who came from all over the world.

Now, Susso is playing that role at his school. International Community High School, part of the Internationals Network for new immigrants, has a special program for students who did not receive a formal education before coming to the United States.

“Alhassan Susso exemplifies the dedication and passion of our 79,000 New York City teachers,” city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement. “Using the obstacles he’s overcome and lessons he’s learned in his own life, Alhassan has changed the trajectory of students’ lives and helped them pursue their dreams.”

New York City teachers make up nearly 40 percent of the state’s teaching force but have won the Teacher of the Year honor only six times since 1965, the last in 1998. This year’s winner had a strong chance of ending the two-decade shutout: Two of the three finalists teach in the Bronx. In addition to Susso, Frederick Douglass Academy III chemistry teacher William Green was up for the award.

regents roundup

Regents support a new way of evaluating charter schools and soften penalties for schools with high opt-out rates

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Chancellor Betty Rosa, center, at a recent Board of Regents meeting.

New York’s top education policymakers tentatively approved new rules Monday on two hot-button issues: the penalties for districts and schools where many students opt out of state tests — and how nearly 100 charter schools across the state will be evaluated.

Here’s what you need to know about the new policies that the state’s Board of Regents set in motion.

Potential penalties for high opt-out rates were softened

After criticism from activists and parents within the opt-out movement and pushback from the state teachers union, the Regents walked back some of the consequences schools and districts can face when students refuse to take state exams.

Among the most significant changes, which state officials first floated last week, is that districts with high opt-out rates will not be required to use a portion of their federal funding to increase their testing rates.

“I do not ever want to be the person who takes money away from children,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

The regulations are part of the state’s plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and stem from a federal mandate that 95 percent of students take the state’s annual reading and math exams.

The Regents tweaked other rules requiring schools to create improvement plans if they fall below the 95 percent threshold. Schools with average or higher test scores will not have to come up with those plans.

Still, some parents who support the opt-out movement and who attended Monday’s meeting said the changes don’t go far enough and that schools with lower test scores should also be exempt from coming up with plans to boost participation rates.

“There’s still so much left to be addressed,” said Kemala Karmen, a New York City public school parent who attended the meeting.

The new regulations will likely not have a major effect in New York City, where opt-out rates have remained relatively low. Although New York State has been the epicenter of the test-boycott movement — with roughly one in five students refusing to take the tests, according to the most recent data — less than 4 percent of the city’s students declined to take them.

The Regents unanimously approved the changes, although their vote is technically preliminary. The tweaks will still be subject to a 30-day public comment period and will likely be brought to a final vote in December.

New criteria for evaluating charter schools

The Regents also narrowly approved a new framework for evaluating the roughly 100 charter schools that the board oversees across the state, 63 of which are in New York City.

The new framework is meant to bring charter schools in line with how the state judges district-run schools. Under the new federal education law, the Regents have moved away from emphasizing test scores as the key indicator of a school’s success.

In keeping with that shift, the new charter framework will require schools to have policies covering chronic absenteeism, out-of-school suspension rates, and other measures of school culture to help decide whether they are successful enough to remain open.

And while the new framework does not spell out specific rates of chronic absenteeism a school must fall below, for example, it does explicitly add those policies to the mix of factors the Regents consider. (Officials said that test scores and graduation rates would still remain among the most important factors in evaluating charter schools.)

At Monday’s meeting, discussion of the charter framework prompted broad complaints about the charter sector from some Regents. The state’s framework for evaluating charters was last updated in 2015; the board has added several new members and a new chancellor since then.

The current board has repeatedly sent mixed messages about the sector, approving large batches of new charters while also rejecting others and raising questions about whether the schools serve a fair share of high-need students.

“We’re giving money away from our public schools to charters,” Regent Kathy Cashin said, emphasizing that she believes the state should more deeply probe when students leave charter schools and survey families to find out why.

Charters receive some freedom from rules governing most district-run schools, but in exchange the schools are expected to meet certain performance benchmarks or else face closure.

State officials said the new framework does not include new standards for how New York judges enrollment and retention. Under the current rules, schools must enroll a similar number of students with disabilities, English learners, and low-income students as other nearby district schools. If they don’t, they must show that they’re making progress toward that goal.

Ultimately, the new framework was approved eight to five in a preliminary vote and will be brought back to the full board for approval on Tuesday.