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Brill-ing Down: Adding to Steven Brill’s NYT Magazine Report

Steven Brill’s latest article chronicling the politics of the Race to the Top competition has caused a torrent of commentary. One contentious aspect of the piece is Brill’s comparison of two schools that share the same building: Harlem Success Academy and P.S. 149. After Valerie Strauss picked up the statistics posted on the New York Public School Parents Blog, there has been much speculation about what types of kids are attending each school. Just how different are the populations anyway?

To figure out the answer, I looked at NY State Accountability Report Cards, the Special Education Service Delivery Report for P.S. 149, as well as special education invoices provided to the UFT by the New York State Education Department. I chose these data sets because they seemed to be the most reliable and the most comparable. By “comparable” I mean that both Harlem Success and P.S. 149 have to submit to the state as part of their Accountability Report Cards data on students who receive free or reduced price lunch (an indicator of economic need), whereas, for instance, only P.S. 149 lists something known as the poverty rate (which is slightly different.)

According to this data, Harlem Success Academy does appear to serve fewer needy students, both in terms of economic status, limited English proficiency, and special education needs. On the other hand, Harlem Success dramatically outperforms P.S. 149 on 3rd grade test results.

For a more comprehensive evaluation, the tables below compare 2008-2009 demographic data and 2008-2009 3rd grade state test scores. (Harlem Success only had this one testable grade.) The second table compares test scores overall and the third table looks at test scores broken down by subgroups like economic need and special education status.




*There were not enough Limited English Proficient students tested in 3rd grade at P.S. 149 to report a score. There were no Limited English Proficient students tested in 3rd grade at Harlem Success.

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