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With old concerns still unresolved, six schools get new grades

Last year, the Department of Education withheld progress reports from seven schools because their data raised red flags.

At the time, officials said the irregularities could have been caused by innocuous reporting errors. But they said the suspicious data could also reflect cheating. The department makes important decisions about which schools should be closed, and which principals should receive pay boosts, based on the progress reports.

Investigations were launched. And a year later, all but one of the schools have new progress reports, released yesterday, but still don’t have their 2010-2011 reports.

At a briefing on this year’s progress report release, department officials said those investigations are still unresolved, and they’re opening up a new one at a Bronx high school accused of fudging its numbers.

“The goal of the investigation is to get it right,” Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said, explaining why the investigators have so far taken more than a year to look into the irregularities. “We’re going to take the time we need to get it right.”

All but one of those schools received As or Bs this year. Foundations Academy received an F, and made the new list of schools officials are thinking of closing.

Officials said an investigation remains open at Theatre Arts Production Company. The department concluded a massive investigation there in March after finding that the school’s principal had fudged its data for many areas that factor into the progress reports and removing her from the school.

A seventh school, the Bushwick School for Social Justice, had its 2010-2011 progress report withheld last year because officials were initially suspicious of some of the school’s Regents exam scores. But it was released on February after officials determined that the data should stand. Still, they were suspicious enough to include the school in the distributed-grading pilot in January, meaning its teachers did not grade exams for any students at the school.

This year, just one school’s grade was withheld over data suspicions: Bronx Health Sciences High School, which has been accused of forcing students behind in their classes to transfer to other schools. Polakow-Suransky said this is because the school’s data suggested “that something improper happened.”

And one more school, Wildcat Charter School, won’t receive its progress report until later this year or early next because school leaders were unable to access and verify its data during Hurricane Sandy.

The six schools are:

Theatre Arts Production Company (Bronx) — B
PULSE (Bronx) — B
School for International Studies (Brooklyn) — B
Bronx Aerospace (Bronx) — A
Foundations Academy (Brooklyn) — F
FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn) — B

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