Monday, July 23, 2012


Did more poorly on state reading tests than older schools with similar poverty rates

By Rachel Monahan / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |

Daily News Graphic; Photo by Jeanne Noonan for New York Daily News

Tanya King  fought without success to save Brooklyn's Academy of Business and Community Development, which grandson Donnovan Hicks attended.>>

Sunday, July 22, 2012, 3:00 AM  ::  The signature Bloomberg administration reform of shutting down failing schools and replacing them with new schools has — itself — failed thousands of city students, a Daily News analysis finds.

The new schools opened under the mayor were supposed to have better teachers, better principals, and, ultimately, better test scores than the dysfunctional failure mills they were replacing.

But when The News examined 2012 state reading test scores for 154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates.

The new schools also showed poor results in the city’s letter-grade rating system, which uses a complicated formula to compare schools with those that have similar demographics.

Of 133 new elementary and middle schools that got letter grades last year, 15% received D’s and F’s — far more than the city average, where just 10% of schools got the rock-bottom grades.

“It’s crazy,” said Tanya King, who helped wage a losing battle to save Brooklyn’s Academy of Business and Community Development, where her grandson was a student.

The school opened in 2005, then closed in 2012.

Instead of closing struggling schools and replacing them with something else that doesn’t work, King says, the city should help with extra resources to save the existing schools.

“You have the same children in the school,” she said. “What’s going to be the difference? Put in the services that are going to make the school better.”

Her grandson Donnovan Hicks, 11, will be transferred next fall for the seventh-grade into another Bloomberg-created school, Brooklyn’s Peace Academy, where just 13% passed the state reading exams this spring.

The News conducted its analysis by grouping 154 new schools into one of five poverty categories based on how many kids in the school were eligible last year to receive a free lunch. It then compared the percent of students who passed the state reading test in each school to the average passing rate for older schools in the same poverty group.

Of the 154 schools, 90 had lower passing rates than the average school in their group.

That translates to massive failure: Just 38% of students at elementary and middle schools created by the Bloomberg administration passed the reading exams, compared with 47% of students citywide.

The News analysis — which looked just at traditional public schools, not at charters — was not the kind of thorough academic study that could be used to draw absolute conclusions on the success of school closures, but three education experts said the method offers an important insight into the city’s reforms.

“This is additional evidence that these (new) schools are not performing better than their peer schools,” said NYU Prof. Robert Tobias, who led the city’s testing program before Bloomberg took office.

City officials defended their new schools, noting they serve students with higher needs than older schools and have improved at a faster rate in recent years.

“While there is still room to improve, these new schools’ proficiency rate is nearly double that of the schools they replaced in both math and English,” said Martin Kurzweil, senior executive director of the Education Department’s research, accountability and data office.

But critics of the administration say they would have hoped for better results.

“(The administration has) been focused on expanding school choice by creating small schools as the solution to school failure when they’re setting these schools up for failure,” said Coalition for Educational Justice parent leader Zakiyah Ansari.

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