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More F's and fewer A's mark new high school progress reports

For the second year in a row, the city has awarded fewer top progress report grades to high schools.

Nearly 70 percent of high schools received A’s or B’s on this year’s reports, which are being released today, down from about 75 percent last year and 83 percent in 2008.

And more schools will have to endure a year of having the letter “F” branded on their report cards. Last year, the city gave only one F, but this year nine schools got that grade, and another 23 received D’s. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C’s in a row, are at risk for closure. The city has indicated that it might try to close more schools this year than in past years.

This year’s high school grades were more stable than those for elementary and middle schools, which were released last month. Elementary and middle school reports are based almost entire on state reading and math scores, and lower scores statewide caused grades to fall this year at about 70 percent of schools. The high school reports are based on a more diverse set of data points — including graduation rates, Regents exam pass rates, and how many classes students pass each year — none of which underwent substantial changes this year.

The new reports assign A’s to 40 percent of high schools, B’s to 29 percent, and C’s to 21 percent. In 2009, 45 percent of schools were given A’s, 30 percent got B’s and 19 percent got C’s. Schools that have not yet had a graduating class or are in the process of closing do not receive grades.

Chancellor Joel Klein and Chief Accountability Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky will present the new report card grades to reporters this morning.

For now, here are some highlights:

  • Five schools scored over 100 points, which means they got extra credit for showing progress with students who aren’t fluent in English or special education students. From highest to lowest, they are Theatre Arts Production Company School, Brooklyn International High School at Water’s Edge, Williamsburg Preparatory School, Marble Hill High School for International Studies, and Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design.
  • Thirty-four high schools got an F grade in the performance category, but only seven of them received the lowest grade overall.
  • The three high schools GothamSchools and WNYC are following through the federally mandated transformation process all received low grades. Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School had the highest score of the three; its 55.8 earned it a C. William Grady Career and Technical Education High School and Christopher Columbus High School both received D’s.
  • Herbert Lehman High School, which had its report card withheld last year because its executive principal Janet Saraceno is under investigation for changing students’ grades, had its grade publicly released this year, and it is one of the nine F’s. Last year, after the city accidentally released Lehman’s report card, teachers learned the school had gotten a low B. The fall from a B to an F in one year came in part from the school’s low score in the environment category — 81 percent of surveyed teachers said they didn’t trust the school’s principal — as well as a D grade for performance and an F for progress.
  • The grade for one school, John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, remains under review. In the past, grades have been kept under review if the school appeals its score or if the city is investigating the school’s data. Kennedy has been the subject of multiple investigations in recent years.

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