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. 

moving on up

Jeffco on track to move most of next year’s sixth-graders into middle school buildings

PHOTO: Denver Post file

Jeffco Public Schools is moving forward with plans to put the majority of its sixth-graders in middle schools instead of elementary schools starting next fall, a shift district officials say will both better utilize building space and ease what can be a rough transition for kids.

The change, announced more than a year ago, will bring the state’s second largest school district into alignment with how most Colorado districts split up elementary and middle school.

Jeffco will continue to operate models that break that mold, including longstanding K-8 schools and a newer experiment with 7th through 12th grade schools officials say has shown promise.

Some critics continue to voice concerns about the plan, including questioning the cost and comparing that to what they say will result in a questionable benefit for students’ educations. District officials, however, say parents are getting their questions answered and educators are hearing fewer concerns than before.

The issue has come up at forums for school board candidates running this fall, and Jeffco staff last week at a regular board meeting updated the school board.

Marcia Anker, who started in July as the district’s sixth grade transition coordinator, said that some Jeffco schools individually started asking to make the change more than 10 years ago. Some individual middle schools had already been allowed to start enrolling sixth graders.

District officials say they estimate 3,355 students due to be sixth graders next year will be attending a middle school in 2018-19 instead of staying in an elementary school.

Many of the players involved in the initial discussions to move sixth grade out of elementary schools aren’t in the district anymore, including former superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Current district leaders say it was a conversation that began with district officials who oversee use of buildings, but that the decision wasn’t driven by building concerns.

Still, building use is a factor. Tim Reed, executive director of Jeffco facilities said middle school buildings in Jeffco were designed to hold three grade levels and have been underutilized.

“I think the conversation has always been about what’s best for students,” Reed said. “There was a recognition that there was significant underutilization in our middle school buildings. This was a way to accomplish two things including to better utilize middle schools.”

National research on middle school grade configurations has not been keen on sixth through eighth grade models. One study comparing students in sixth through eighth grade schools to students in schools that are K-8 schools found that student test scores weren’t different, but found more negative perceptions among students in traditional middle schools.

Jeffco board members and staff who have touted the benefits that sixth graders will see in a middle school point out that students will get a chance to start exploring their career interests with elective classes and have more time to develop relationships with staff in the middle schools.

Karen Quanbeck, interim chief school effectiveness officer and a previous middle school principal in the district, said at last week’s board meeting that two years with students is not enough.

“It seems like you’re welcoming them and in the blink of an eye you’re sending them off to high school,” Quanbeck said.

But some schools will need to continue with the seventh and eighth grade model for at least one more year. Because the empty middle school seats aren’t evenly spread throughout the district, some schools will require expansions to make room for new sixth graders.

The school board has already approved the funding to build a $10 million addition to Drake Middle School and a $4.5 million addition to Dunstan Middle School to accommodate the changes. Another $2 million in reserves will be used to make minor fixes at five other schools.

Three schools — Ken Caryl, Creighton and Summit Ridge — will delay their transition to the new model because the district estimates it needs to find another $15.5 million to add eight classrooms to each school.

Two years ago, in a bid to help lift student achievement, the district merged some schools to create two seventh-through-12 schools: Alameda and Jefferson junior and senior high schools. Those schools will retain that model.

Principals at those schools say they are seeing small benefits from the change. Though the neighborhoods are traditionally higher in poverty and mobility, Anker said that principals tell her students are staying in the school at a higher rate than before.

Still, Anker said one model is not better than another.

“Matriculation models that offer the fewest transitions are what benefits kids,” Anker said.

While there may be some benefits to having every Jeffco middle school offer the same grades — for instance, so parents choosing different schools across the district have consistency — the cost of doing that would also be prohibitive, Anker said.

“We also value the differences in our communities,” Anker said.

The district in the coming months will need to find a way to fund the remaining middle school expansions. Officials also will help some sought-after schools decide if they will cut down the number of seventh and eighth graders they enroll, or ask for help to build out space as well.

vegetarian options

Want your Brooklyn school to go meatless on Mondays? Here’s your chance.

PHOTO: Helen Richardson, The Denver Post

Goodbye, ground beef and popcorn chicken. Hello, crispy tofu and roasted chickpea tagine.

Starting next spring, 15 Brooklyn schools will begin “meatless Mondays” — an effort to make school lunches and breakfasts a little healthier and friendlier to the environment, officials said Monday.

The city has not yet picked the schools that will participate in the pilot program, and an education spokeswoman said the city will make decisions based on interest and public input. (Whether the city is prepared for a barrage of requests from health-minded Park Slope parents is another matter.)

The announcement comes less than two months after city officials made lunch free for all students regardless of income. Monday’s press conference was held at Brooklyn’s P.S. 1 — one of three district schools that only serves vegetarian fare — and drew Mayor Bill de Blasio, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Cutting back a little on meat will help make our city healthier and our planet stronger for generations to come,” de Blasio said in a statement, adding that meat will no longer be served at Gracie Mansion on Mondays.

You can read more about the program here.