By Alicia Outing
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 21, 2007
Report cards are out for local schools, but this time it’s not the students’ individual performances that are up for evaluation.
The NYC Department of Education recently released its much-anticipated letter grade progress reports for each school in the city. The reports assign letter grades based on improvements in test scores and the results of surveys taken by parents, teachers, and older students.
Locally, P.S. 129 on West 130th Street, P.S. 165 on West 109th Street, P.S. 172 on West 129th Street, P.S. 180 on West 120th Street, P.S. 302 on Edgecombe Avenue, and P.S. 692 on Convent Avenue all received A’s.
This achievement could earn them bonuses and increased funding. B schools are also rewarded, while those with a C average will be expected to improve or else face punishment.
P.S. 286 on West 129th Street and P.S. 194 on 144th Street both received F’s.The failing grades mean that the schools will “be subject to school improvement measures and target setting,” according to the DOE Web site. Over time, the schools could undergo a change in leadership or even be closed if their performances do not improve. Exactly what sanctions will be put into place remains to be seen.
The schools were evaluated in the categories of school environment, student performance, and student progress. Additional credit was given to schools demonstrating “exemplary gains among high-need students,” according to the DOE.
This method of evaluating school progress received heavy criticism long before the first progress reports were released. Harriet Barnes, the president of the Community Education Council for Harlem’s District 5, disagreed with the level of emphasis placed on test scores, which account for 85 percent of the letter grades.
“There’s more to teaching than just for the test,” Barnes said. She stressed the importance of music, art, and a structured gym class, subjects that are not required for testing.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of the local advocacy group Class Size Matters, called the letter grading system “indefensible” in an e-mail. Critics worry that the accountability system is “punishing those who need our help the most,” as Haimson wrote on a blog for NYC public school parents.
Brooke Mazurek contributed to this story.