Updated 09/30/2010 10:12 PM
Schools Get Report Cards From City Education Dept.
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The city's 1,100 elementary and middle schools received report cards Thursday from the Department of Education.
For four years, the city has given every school a simple letter grade, based mostly on how much students improved on standardized tests.
When 84 percent of schools brought home an "A" and 13 percent of schools received a "B" last year, there was an outcry over the accuracy of the system.
289 schools received an "A"
396 schools received a "B"
398 schools received a "C"
49 schools received a "D"
8 schools were given an "F"
This year, the DOE decided to grade schools on a curve, allowing only 25 percent of schools to get an A and 35 percent to bring home a B.
"We wanted to challenge our schools so they really had to work to get an A and so that it means something," said Shael Suransky of the New York City Department of Education.
That meant 400 schools went down one grade and 350 schools went down two grades.
Grades might have gone down further if the DOE had not limited how far schools could drop. Since test scores plummeted this year after officials made it harder to pass the exams, the DOE decided it would not allow schools' grades to go down more than two letters.
"I think parents should take progress reports with a big grain of salt. They really don't show you how well your child is doing," said Clara Hemphill of The New School.
Getting a "C," "D" or "F" is bad news for a school. Three Cs in a row and any D or F means the principal can get fired and the school is likely to land on the closure list.
A spokesperson for the principal's union said some school leaders are upset over the report cards this year.
The report cards mostly measure progress, so schools with high test scores can still get low grades if students did not do better than they did the year before.
"The fact they chose to use the state tests again, even after Harvard University said the tests were flawed, it's extremely troubling," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Geoffrey Canada, who runs two charter schools in Harlem, spoke with NY1 Wednesday and said that even though one of his schools went down to a "C" this year, he thinks the report card system is good for educators.
"They're looking at where they were last year. If they got an "A" last year and you got an "A-" this year, you've actually gone down, and that's fair. So it's a fair criticism. I think the idea is transparency, to allow educators to look and say, 'Hey guys, where do we need to step up our game?'" said Canada.
Not everyone is as supportive. Many say a single grade is too simple to sum up a whole school, and others criticize the reliance on test score data and the wild fluctuations in the grade distributions during the past four years.
DOE officials say the system is a work-in-progress, and each year it has gotten better, but it is important to let parents know how well their schools are doing.