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Shuttered schools, high scores mean state failing list shrinks

The number of schools considered to be failing state standards dropped to an all-time low this year, both among city schools and schools across New York state, according to a new list released by the state education department today.

The state has been using student test scores to make the list of schools placed “under registration review” since 1989. Every year, the state makes avoiding the list slightly harder, by raising the bar for how many students need to pass exams. Schools placed on the list risk being shut down; of the more than 300 schools placed on the list since 1989, 228 have been removed. Today’s list, which includes 43 schools statewide, takes into account test scores from last school year, which skyrocketed across the state in reading and math for students between grades 3 and 8.

Thirteen New York City schools improved their test scores enough to climb off the list of schools categorized as being “under registration review,” while four city schools joined the list. Another three city schools would have joined the list, but are being shut down by the city.

As Elissa Gootman reports at CityRoom, the Times metro blog, two of the four city schools joining the list — West Bronx Academy and New Explorers High School — are among the recent new small schools created by Mayor Bloomberg as part of his effort to improve the school system. The other schools are Boys and Girls High School and PS 230 in the Bronx. Three schools, Samuel Tilden High School, a large high school in Brooklyn, Business School For Entrepreneurial Studies in the Bronx, and South Shore High School in Brooklyn, would have been put on the state failing list but are being shut down by the city.

The state designations differ from city accountability grades, which, rather than simply checking whether students passed or not, compare schools to others with similar numbers of disadvantaged students and give them credit for progress their students make on tests. New Explorers and West Bronx Academy got a B and C grade respectively on the city’s progress report.

Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein said in statements that the low number of schools on the list reflects their success at turning the school system around. The total number of city schools on the list is 20 this year, down from 32 last year.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a nonprofit that fights for more money to go to the city school system, put out a statement saying the reductions should be seen as evidence the extra billions the state poured into the city schools is working — and reason not to make budget cuts to schools next year.

Below is a chart the Department of Education made to illustrate the trend:

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