Growing Up

New York

School report cards stabilize after years of unpredictability

After years of volatility, letter grades on progress reports for the city's elementary and middle schools are the most stable and accurate they've ever been, according to Department of Education officials. Queens schools had the highest grades on this year's city progress reports, which were released today, and charter schools received higher scores, on average, than schools across the city. Of the 1,219 schools to receive grades in this year's reports, 298 schools received an A, 411 received a B, 354 received a C, 79 received a D and 32 received an F. The city graded schools on a curve, so that 60 percent scored either an A or a B; 30 percent received C's; and 10 percent received D's or F's – twice as many as last year. That means new additions to the city's list of schools that it will consider closing. Schools that received a D or F, or three consecutive years of C or lower, are automatically added to the list of potential closures. Last year, 62 schools fell into that group, but this year, the total was 116. It is the fifth year that the city has issued the reports, which assess schools based heavily on students' state test scores and their improvement since last year, as well as attendance rates, and feedback from parents, students, and teachers. Schools also earn extra credit for progress made by students with disabilities and English language learners. For the first time this year, schools whose low-performing black and Latino boys made gains also got extra credit. "By acknowledging progress in schools that help struggling students, we can keep more students on track during elementary and middle school," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. Changing standards on state tests over the past two years had thrown the DOE's progress reports into a cycle of unpredictability. Inflated test scores in 2009 resulted in just two schools receiving F's, while 84 percent earned A's. Last year, after state tests became harder to pass, almost 70 percent of schools saw their grades drop and a third of schools saw their grades swing – mostly downward – by two or more letters.