Monday was report card day for 1,200 public elementary and middle schools in the city, and the Department of Education says the controversial "A" through "F" grades have become more stable and reliable. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Every year, the Department of Education grades schools on progress, performance and environment. In other words, have students improved compared to last year? How well are they actually doing? What do parents, teachers and students think of the school?
This year, at P.S. 171 in East Harlem it was As all around. Principal Dimitres Pantelidis said it comes down to good teaching.
"We come from the philosophy that there is no replacement for good instruction," he said.
The "A" through "F" grades started in 2007, but for the past three years, elementary and middle schools have been graded on a curve. The top 25 percent of schools get an "A," 35 percent get a "B," 31 percent get a "C," 7 percent get a "D" and 2 percent get an "F."
That is because most of the scores come from how students do on state standardized tests, and the tests have been changing. In 2009, easier tests meant 97 percent of schools landed an "A" or a "B," leading to an outcry over the accuracy of the system.
Since then, it has gotten harder to pass the tests, and the DOE has worked to keep the progress reports more stable.
"We've really made an effort this year to give the progress reports a broader base on information, not just test scores," said DOE Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky.
For the first time, the DOE is considering how many middle school students pass key courses. Another new section shows parents how well students from each middle school do once they move on to high school. That will be factored in starting next year.
Still, standardized test results help determine 80 percent of each schools' score.
Also, schools that get a "D," an "F" or three "C" grades in a row are at risk of being closed. That is 217 schools this year.
Next week, the DOE will announce which schools will be looked at for possible closure.
High school progress report grades come out later this month, and for the first time, schools will be judged partly on how well their graduates do in college.