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. 

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”

Future of Schools

Four school leaders hope to bring innovative ideas to Indianapolis education

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Brandon Brown introduces four new innovation school fellows.

Hoping to jumpstart innovation in Indianapolis education, four experienced educators will spend a year or more developing new models for schools.

The educators were chosen from among 39 applicants for fellowships from the Mind Trust, a nonprofit that supports district-charter partnerships. This is the fifth round of innovation fellowships, which give leaders one to two years to prepare to launch or takeover schools in Indianapolis Public Schools.

The fellowship includes an annual salary of about $100,000, benefits, and support for creating new schools, such as visits to other schools, training, and legal assistance. The package for each fellow is worth approximately $200,000 per year.

The city has 16 innovation schools, and they enroll about 20 percent of the students in Indianapolis Public Schools. They are under the umbrella of the district, but they are managed by outside charter operators or nonprofits, and most of the teachers are not employed by the district nor do they belong to the teachers union. The Mind Trust has been instrumental in the creation of innovation schools, and the vast majority of the schools were founded with support from the nonprofit.

The innovation fellowship winners include two people from Indianapolis and two recruits from other cities. But in a sign that the nonprofit’s leaders have become more cautious in their choices, all four have years of experience in education.

Brandon Brown, CEO of the Mind Trust, said that’s by design. About four early innovation fellows never ended up opening innovation schools. But all of the recent winners have either opened schools or are on track to open them, he said.

Candidates are much more likely to be successful, he said, if they have the entrepreneurial spirit to create their own nonprofits and win community support — and have experience in education.

“There’s this notion that if you’re a great entrepreneur, you don’t have to have the unique skill set to know education and [yet] you can go operate a school,” Brown said. “We’ve learned that that’s a very rare thing to see.”

While the winners have all worked in established schools, however, Brown said they are trying new models.

Tihesha Henderson, principal of School 99, won a fellowship to develop a school designed to meet the social and emotional needs of students. She will take a yearlong leave from her current job and hopes to return and transform School 99 into an innovation school.

Henderson envisions a school that adjusts to meet student needs, whether through therapy, small classes, or classroom redesign. School 99 already has significant flexibility, but as an innovation school, Henderson would be able to change the school calendar and set teacher pay, she said.

“We don’t have to be the status quo,” she said. “We can branch out and do some things differently, but it all comes back to — are we meeting out kids needs?”

The other fellows are Alicia Hervey, dean of student development for Christel House Academies; Kim Neal, managing director of secondary education for the charter school network KIPP DC; and Brandy Williams, an expert in special education from New Orleans.

Although innovation schools are considered part of Indianapolis Public Schools, they also often have charters through the office of Mayor Joe Hogsett. The collaborative nature of the schools was on display at the announcement Thursday, where Hogsett, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, and Brown all spoke.

The innovation schools, said Ferebee, are part of a broader district strategy to give principals more flexibility to run their schools.

“We hire great leaders, get out of their way and give them the space and agility to make decisions about academics [and] operations to better serve our students and our families,” he said.

The city’s reputation in the education community is helping it attract educators from across the country, said Hogsett.

“They know our city is one where they can make a difference,” he said. “Indianapolis welcomes their passion with open arms.”