number crunching

The good, the bad, & the puzzling within the progress reports

Behind the letter grade that each city high school received this week is a mess of data.

Progress report scores take into account everything from how many ninth-graders earned six credits in academic courses to the number of overage students to the relative performance of students with special needs. The city’s spreadsheet containing the underlying data for the progress reports runs to more than 200 columns.

We sorted and re-sorted the spreadsheet to look at the city’s measures of school quality in different ways. Here are some of the most interesting things we found.

The top five highest-scoring schools include three schools for new immigrants (marked with asterisks):

Brooklyn International High School (Brooklyn)*
Manhattan Village Academy (Manhattan)
It Takes A Village Academy (Brooklyn)*
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (Brooklyn)
Manhattan Bridges High School (Manhattan)*

The top five lowest-scoring schools:

Manhattan Theatre Lab High School (Manhattan)
High School of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan)
Samuel Gompers Career and Technical Education High School (Bronx)
Herbert H. Lehman High School (Bronx)
Freedom Academy High School (Brooklyn)

Seven schools didn’t get progress reports after their data raised red flags with department officials:

Theatre Arts Production Company (Bronx)
PULSE (Bronx)
School for International Studies (Brooklyn)
Bronx Aerospace (Bronx)
Bushwick School for Social Justice (Brooklyn)
Foundations Academy (Brooklyn)
FDNY School for Fire & Life Safety (Brooklyn)

Other schools where academic and management improprieties have been reported did get progress reports:

Science Skills High School (Brooklyn) got an A
A. Philip Randolph High School (Manhattan) got a C
Lehman High School (Bronx) got an F
Washington Irving High School (Manhattan) got an F
Independence High School (Manhattan) got a C
Williamsburg Charter High School (Brooklyn) got a C

Three schools benefited from the new rule that prevented schools with high graduation rates from scoring lower than a C:

Bronx Prep Charter School (Bronx)
Frederick Douglass Academy (Manhattan)
East New York Family Academy (Brooklyn)

Seventy schools sent less than a third of their graduates to college. Of those, seven got A’s:

Fordham High School of the Arts (Bronx)
High School for Violin and Dance (Bronx)
Millennium Art Academy (Bronx)
International Community High School (Bronx)
El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Brooklyn)
International High School at Prospect Heights (Brooklyn)
W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School (Brooklyn)

At four schools, all selective, not a single graduate would need remediation at CUNY colleges:

Staten Island Technical High School
Townsend Harris High School
High School of American Studies at Lehman College
Queens High School for Sciences at York College

And at six schools, not a single graduate met CUNY’s basic standards:

Performance Conservatory High School (Bronx) is closing
Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (Brooklyn), which got a C
Bronxwood Preparatory Academy (Bronx), which got a C
Opportunity Charter School (Manhattan), which did not receive a grade
Arts and Media Preparatory Academy (Brooklyn), which got a B
High School of Violin and Dance (Bronx), which got an A

Six of the 11 schools that began federally funded “transformation” last year saw no change. Two saw their grades fall:

Queens Vocational and Technical High School, which went from an A to a B
Flushing High School, which went from a C to a D

And one saw a spectacular climb:

School for Global Studies, which went from an F to a B

Two of the schools we followed in “The Big Fix” series boosted their grades:

William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School went from a D to a B.
Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School rose from a C to a B.

And one school had no chance:

Christopher Columbus High School got no grade because it has started phasing out.

Seven charter high schools got progress report grades:

New Heights Charter School, which got a A for the second year in a row
International Leadership Charter School, which dropped from an A to C
Renaissance Charter School, which got a B in its first year with a report
Harlem Village Academy, which got a B in its first year with a report
John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, which fell from an A to a B
Williamsburg Charter High School, which improved from a D to a C
Bronx Prep, which got a C for the second year in a row

Ninety-two schools did not get progress report grades because they are less than four years old or are phasing out.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.