Compare and Contrast

Interactive map offers illustration of college-readiness disparities

Two screenshots from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform's new interactive college-readiness map show how many students in the Class of 2011 graduated college-ready in two adjacent Manhattan neighborhoods.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is betting that an interactive map is worth about 5,000.

The institute today released a 10-page report arguing that demography is still destiny for New York City schoolchildren, at least in terms of whether they are prepared for college. Accompanying the report is a new data tool that lets users handicap students’ chances of graduating from high school ready for college by neighborhood.

The interactive map was created by the Coalition for Educational Justice, the Annenberg Institute’s organizing partner in the city. CEJ has called attention to the city’s low college-readiness rate in the past.

Since last year, the city and state have released college-readiness rates for each high school. The state’s measure looks at students’ scores on reading and math Regents exams and how many students earn advanced diplomas, and the city’s measure adds performance in college-preparatory courses and tests and real college enrollment rates. Both methods found that fewer than a quarter of city students in the Class of 2011 graduated college-ready in four years, a statistic that both are using to justify changes to curriculum and assessment. The city is also launching new initiatives aimed at boosting the numbers.

But the city and state data reflect only where students attend school. The Annenberg Institute instead looked at students’ home addresses. Breaking the city into nearly 300 different neighborhoods, researchers found that the whiter, the wealthier, and the more educated the women in each area, the more likely students there were to graduate ready for college, regardless of where they attended high school.

On the Upper East Side, for example, 70 percent of students hit the college-readiness mark. But cross 96th Street into East Harlem, and a student’s chances of graduating college-ready drops to just 18 percent. Next door in Harlem, the rate falls to 13 percent. Continue on a little farther west to Morningside Heights, where Columbia University is located, and the rate rises again to 29 percent.

The report concludes that the Bloomberg administration’s sustained policy to replace long-struggling high schools with smaller options has not made a dent in even longer-standing inequities. It reads,

In a broadside that former Chancellor [Joel] Klein and Michelle Rhee published in 2010, they declared, “The single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income – it is the quality of their teacher.” Yet our findings indicate that ZIP code, income, and, above all, the racial composition of students’ neighborhoods is very strongly correlated with student success.

Lisandra Tejada, left, and Jade Williams attended the High School of Medical Science in the Bronx and said it did not prepare them for college. (Neither lives in Jackson Heights.)

At a press conference about the report this morning, several recent high school graduates said they were surprised when they were told they would have to take remedial courses once they got to college. Lisandra Tejada graduated from the Bronx High School of Medical Science in 2009 after just three years, with Regents scores in the 80s, well above the level considered college-ready. But she still failed the math placement test at Lehman College.

A former classmate, Jade Williams, stayed on for a fourth year, but as a senior she took only art, math, and physical education. That was all the school offered that she hadn’t previously taken, she said.

Both students said their high school had focused almost exclusively on preparation for the Regents exams required for graduation, with lessons centering on how to guesstimate and eliminate answers to increase the likelihood of getting a questions right.

“High school was the most easy thing in my life,” said Williams, whose neighborhood, Highbridge, has a college-readiness rate of just 15 percent. “I think middle school was more challenging.”

The press conference was organized by CEJ, and some of the report’s recommendations, such as to boost counseling services, closely mirror others the group has put forward in the past. Another recommendation, to increase the number of schools designed to admit students with a wide range of skill levels, echoes a 2009 report from the Center for New York City Affairs.

The city’s high school progress reports this year will factor in a school’s college readiness rate into its final score for the first time. The reports are set to be released next week. Department officials said last year that they expected schools’ scores to fall substantially if they did not do more to prepare students for college.

The Annenberg Institute’s complete report, “Is Demography Still Destiny?”, is below.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.