Thursday, June 23, 2011



smf: Much is made of data that shows LAUSD – and high school in general - doesn’t prepare students for college. It has been thus since the storied golden days of yesteryear when I went from high school to college. And it is true now in NYC – where the mayor (and formerly Joel Klein) runs the schools and everything is better than sliced bread. Or not.

June 21, 2011 - Some of the New York City high schools that received the highest grades under the Education Department’s school assessment system are graduating students who are not ready for college, newly released data show.

Of the 70 high schools that earned an “A” on the most recent city progress report and have at least one-third of graduates attending a college of the City University of New York, 46 posted remediation rates above 50 percent, according to reports sent to the city’s high schools.

Some of those schools are small and sent only a few students to CUNY. But city education officials now consider that information so important that they will be making it part of the equation by which schools are assigned letter grades of A through F — a ranking that, if low enough, could result in a major restructuring or even closing of a school.

City officials said they were still figuring out how heavily they would weigh this data against Regents pass rates and graduation rates, which are already considered when assigning the letter grades, in a process that is already complicated and frequently criticized. And when the new system is adopted in 2012, it will also give schools credit for the percentage of students who enroll in college, and include information on how students perform at State University of New York and private colleges.

“We do know that the schools already have a sense of how many kids and which kids they sent to CUNY and how strong they were,” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city’s chief academic officer. “They can draw more powerful conclusions with this data, and I’m hoping this pushes the conversation along. We’ve been really cautious about drawing conclusions ourselves, and we want to be cautious going forward as well.”

Reports on the high schools’ remediation rates — the percentage of students who fail a CUNY entrance exam and require remediation classes — have been distributed only since last year. Over all, the remediation rate at CUNY colleges rose to 49 percent in 2010, from 45 percent in 2007. At the same time, the graduation rate from city high schools increased to 61 percent in 2010, from 52.8 percent in 2007.

To be sure, the high schools are not solely responsible for students’ difficulty at college-level work: the new figures showed a clear link between college remediation and how well students performed before high school.

The combined remediation rate for the 50 high schools serving the highest-achieving students, based on middle-school test scores, was 21 percent. For the 50 schools serving the lowest-achieving students, the CUNY remediation rate was 77 percent.

Still, the new data could have repercussions for high schools like the Williamsburg Preparatory School in Brooklyn. With a graduation rate of 88 percent, the school is performing well above the citywide average and has earned A’s on its progress reports for the last three years.

But of the 38 students — 39 percent of its graduating class — who went to CUNY last year, 75 percent could not pass the reading, math or writing exams CUNY uses to determine if freshmen can pass college classes.

Williamsburg Prep has recently made adjustments to prepare its students for college better. They must now score above 75 on the algebra Regents exam before moving on to harder math. In the past, a 65 — the passing score set by the state — was enough to pass a student on to geometry.

The principal of the Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, Alyce Barr, said she was concerned about including the CUNY remediation rate in a school’s grade. Hers is a “performance assessment” school and has a state waiver that allows students to write research papers and conduct science experiments instead of taking Regents exams. Last year, the school sent 25 of its 64 graduates to CUNY schools but 83 percent could not pass the colleges’ remediation exams.

Ms. Barr said her students were not used to taking exams, and she maintained that the skills the school focuses on, like essay writing, are a better indicator of how well they will do in college.

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