early word

Just two F's amid nearly straight A's on 2009 progress reports

Just two schools got F’s on their progress reports this year, bearing out reports that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would tout high scores when he released this year’s grades today.

Eighty-four percent of elementary and middle schools earned A’s, up from 38 percent last year, promising to stir up questions about how useful the progress reports are for parents and principals.

A few other highlights: Of the lowest-performing schools, most opened under Klein’s watch. Nearly 5 percent of schools earned so much extra credit for helping their neediest students that their scores exceeded 100 percent. And the schools that the city tried to close last year before being thwarted by a lawsuit all earned A grades.

Klein is offering his interpretation to reporters right now at a press conference, and we’ll bring updates from there later in the day. For now, take a look at the complete list of progress report grades and add your observations to mine:

  • Ten of the 12 schools with the lowest raw scores opened since Klein became chancellor in 2002. The two schools that received F’s are Washington Heights Academy, which opened in 2004, and Harlem Link Charter School, which opened in 2005. This was the first year the schools had enough test results to give them progress reports.
  • PS 8, the popular school in Brooklyn Heights that made news last year when it received an F on its progress report, not only got an A this year but was one of the most improved schools in the city, with a score that rose by more than 70 points over last year.
  • The largest score drop in the city happened at the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School, which got 90.6 points on last year’s progress report but earned just 56.5 points on this year’s report, giving it a B.
  • The three schools that the UFT and parent leaders sued to keep open saw their scores rise by an average of 54 points. PS 194 and PS 241 in Harlem both went from D’s to A’s, and PS 150 in Brooklyn got an A after receiving an F last year.
  • Nearly 50 schools scored more than 100 points according to the progress reports formula, which awards extra credit to schools where especially needy students get higher scores on the state tests.
  • PS 123, the Harlem school that’s embroiled in a battle with the Harlem Success Academy charter school over space, received an A on the report. It received a B last year. Harlem Success did not get a progress report grade because last year was the first time its students took state tests.
  • KIPP AMP, the charter school where teachers voted to unionize last year, received the lowest score of any of the city’s four KIPP schools. It was the 65th-lowest-scoring city school, more than 600 places behind the next-lowest-scoring KIPP school, KIPP STAR.

Here’s the spreadsheet with each school’s scores from this year and last year. (Download an Excel file with the grades here.)

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.