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High School Progress Reports Released

November 17, 2009 am30 1:42 am

Not good.

1. What do they measure?

I really don’t get why the whole world’s not insistently asking this question. I guess that the A, B, C, D, F is so familiar, that we assume that the reports are measuring how good the schools are. But pretty clearly, they are not.

The scores are an ugly, unjustified mix of the Learning Environment scores (themselves never fully explained or justified), graduation rates, credit accumulation rates, attendance rates, regents pass rates… Each school is measured against the City as a whole, and against a select group of comparable schools – the “peer horizon.” In some categories, kids have extra value/weighting if they are in the lowest third of the school, if they are poor (?), if they are in Special Education, if they are ELLs. With the extra weightings, it looks like the scores go from an arbitrary minimum to an arbitrary maximum (roughly 30 to 105). There is no justification for which numbers correspond to which letter, although they comment that they changed the cuts. Why? Arbitrary.

45% of the high schools got As. What does that mean? It means they set the minimum score for A at 45%. Nothing more.

They claim to be measuring progress towards on-time graduation. I do not think they are actually measuring anything.

2. What effect do these reports have?

High score? Principal gets a bonus.

B, C, D or F? Quality Review (a sort of colonoscopy for the school, but the “doctors” don’t have licenses, and no anaesthesia)

Lousy grade? They threaten to break up or close down or shake up or replace a school. But they only shut what they want to shut. Schools with bad grades stay open. Schools with good grades are closed.

3. What effect do the effects have?

Nervousness. The threats against schools with poor grades make teachers, parents, admins all nervous. That’s Bloomberg’s style – he ran his business this way.

Cheating. Saraceno from Lehman HS got caught, but only because her own staff turned her in. But the massive pressure on credit accumulation, and the massive wink (wink!) towards credit recovery has led some principals to give away massive amounts of credit, to boost progress report scores. Don’t ask, don’t tell, the DoE knows this is happening and chooses not to look. Wink wink. The academic lowest third of your school counts double. At 9 credits the kid counts against you, at 10 they count for you. For you can mean a bonus (at least $7k), against you can mean anything from DoE hassles to getting shut. Which principal, of those not already handing out credits like candy, isn’t thinking about it?

4. Increasing graduation rates

The “accountability” system that includes Progress Reports might raise graduation rates – but not by improving achievement. They might just get principals to award so many bogus and half-bogus credits that kids who are not ready to be graduated from high school are handed meaningless diplomas.

5. Who?

This project is so far removed from the schools and the reality in the schools, you have to wonder who’s running the show. I’m guessing non-educators are central to this Sabremetric stew. But the educators who’ve survived Bloomberg/Klein are, at the top, an ethically unimpressive bunch; I wouldn’t be shocked if former educators had some involvement. I would be shocked if it turned out that any current educator played a role.

6. Typo

I go to to get information from the New York State Education Department. Our DoE got the name wrong on the front page of every single progress report.

New York City Department of Education

New York State Education Department

They got it wrong last year, too.

That’s zero progress.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    November 17, 2009 pm30 8:16 pm 8:16 pm

    Well, fine — so the grades don’t mean anything and the process harbors the potential for great harm to be done to individual schools and students. But it doesn’t cost much or require a bloated centralized bureaucracy.

    Wait, what?

  2. canwetalk permalink
    November 17, 2009 pm30 10:36 pm 10:36 pm

    The Progress Report, Quality Review, and the School Report Card are nothing else but a collection of nada data. The DoE has inflated, manipulated, distorted, and twisted any semblance of what is a true meaning of a grade. I know how outspoken you are at the D.A., and your analysis of the PR and questions about its realiability should be mentioned at tomorrow’s DA. I hope that the union’s leadership looks through the charade of the DoE’s doling of those laughable, but insulting, grades. Thanks for informing those who read your blog faithfully.

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