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NY1 Exclusive: City's High Needs Schools Failing, Scores Show

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An analysis of new student data by NY1 is raising more questions about the city Department of Education's policy when it comes to serving the population of high needs students. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

In nearly 200 city schools, at least 90 percent of the students share a common burden: They live below the poverty line.

And these schools are not just battling poverty. Four out of five also have higher rates of students who are just learning English or students with disabilities.

That's 141 high needs schools. How are they doing? In almost all cases, not well.

Test scores show an average of just 31 percent of students passing the state reading test, compared to 47 percent citywide. The passing rate in math is 45 percent, compared to the city average of 60 percent.

The DOE says there are exceptions.

"I know schools that have a variety of percentages of students, through over-the-counter or special ed or English language learners, who are knocking the socks off the ball," said Schools Commissioner Dennis Walcott.

That's true. 21 of the high needs schools have higher than average math scores, 12 have higher English scores and eight beat the citywide averages in both subjects.

But that's fewer than 6 percent of high needs schools beating the odds.

A example of a school with results that are more typical is IS 218 in Washington Heights. 93 percent of the students live in poverty, 44 percent are learning English and 23 percent have special education needs. The school's test scores are among the lowest in the city.

Experts say the issue is not the special needs of individual students but the concentration of so many needy students in one school.

Last month, NY1 reported that the city plans to change enrollment policies. In a letter to the state, the city claimed the changes would address concerns over concentrating high needs students together. But publicly, the DOE still denies enrollment patterns are a problem.

But after a decade of the mayor’s education reforms, the numbers would seem to show that the issue is serious and that most schools serving the largest proportions of high needs students are, in fact, failing.

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