Six Queens High Schools Receive Bad Grades
By Joe Marvilli
The Dept. of Education has released their school progress report for the 2011-12 academic year and the grades are not looking good for six Queens-based high schools.
August Martin High School, Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School, Flushing High School, Law, Government and Community Service High School, Pan American International High School and Queens Satellite High School for Opportunity all received overalls grades of D for the previous academic year, indicating that the DOE feels there are serious problems within those locations.
In past years, the grading system has partially determined which schools will be selected for early engagement, a process that can be anything from brainstorming ways to fix the school or preparing to close down the school instead.
According to Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, those conversations with the struggling schools have already begun.
“The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of what’s happening at these schools and give them the opportunity to talk about the challenges they face; the strategies and interventions already underway; and what strategies or interventions will be most meaningful to the school as they move forward,” he said. “We’ll take the feedback that we receive from the school and community into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success.”
Every school is reviewed for past performance and demand trends, as well as their plans for school reform, leadership performance and the needs of the district and community. These studies are in addition to previous progress reports, quality reviews, placement on the State’s Priority list and Joint Intervention Team reviews.
The progress report grade is broken down into four main sections, plus additional credit the school can earn based on exemplary outcomes of high-need students.
Student Progress is worth 55 points and rates a school’s ability to help students reach the goal of earning a Regents Diploma. The focus is put on what skills and knowledge students develop from the school, not what they arrive with on day one. While all students in each school are included in this rating, particular attention is given to the one-third of students who entered at the lowest performance level. There are six metrics focused on credit accumulation and six metrics focused on Regents exams.
Student Performance amounts to 20 points and measures the percentage of students who have graduated within four or six years. Emphasis is placed on the number of students who graduate with a Regents Diploma, which State law establishes as the goal for all students.
School Environment, totaling 15 points, takes a look at learning conditions, student attendance and other aspects that make for a healthy learning atmosphere. Some of these qualities include high expectations, engagement, safety, respect and communication. While attendance is gauged directly, all the other requirements are measured through a survey of parents, students and teachers.
The category of College and Career Readiness is scaled up to 10 points and quantifies the school’s ability to prepare their students for success in college, vocational programs or public service. Schools are rewarded for helping their students graduate and for the students demonstrating proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics as defined by the CUNY standards for passing out of remedial coursework. It also considers the students’ post-graduation outcomes.
Closing the Achievement Gap is worth up to 16 points and awards schools that achieve exemplary outcomes among high-need students. This component is only included to improve a school’s overall score and cannot lower it.
The Six Schools
August Martin High School, located at 156-10 Baisley Blvd, South Jamaica, had an overall score of 41.7, notable for being the lowest for any regular Queens high schools. It received F grades for both performance and progress and a D for college and career readiness. It is not all bad news though as the school got a B for environment.
Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School, located at 207-01 116th Ave, Cambria Heights, dropped down from last year’s C grade. It got an F for progress and a D in performance. On the positive side, it received B grades in both environment and college and career readiness.
Flushing High School, located at 35-01 Union Street, Flushing, stayed the same when compared to last year, but its D was a drop from the 2009-2010 C grade. It was given F grades for both performance and progress, D for environment and C for college and career readiness.
The City tried to close Flushing and August Martin high schools last year under Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s “turnaround” plan, but the schools were saved when a judge blocked the closure after teacher and administrative unions sued the DOE on the plan.
Law, Government and Community Service High School, located at 207-01 116th Ave, Cambria Heights, is another school that escaped closure last year when the City decided against it. This year has remained the same as the past two in terms of its D grade. Broken down, it got an F grade for progress, a D for performance and C grades for environment and college and career readiness.
Pan American International High School, located at 45-10 94th St., Elmhurst, has not received a letter grade improvement from last year, when it was given a D as well. When broken down into categories, the school got an F performance grade and college readiness grade, but earned higher scores for progress (C) and environment (B).
Queens Satellite High School for Opportunity, located at 162-02 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica, stands out with a score of 39.1, the lowest for Queens high schools in general. The transfer high school, which is designed to help students who have dropped out or who have fallen behind in credits, got F’s in all categories except progress, in which was given a D.
One loudly critical opponent of the DOE’s rating system is the United Federation of Teachers, who believes the progress reports are being manipulated to fit whatever results the administration wants.
“We’ve always had a problem with the way the DOE has rated the school,” UFT Queens High Schools Representative James Vasquez said. “We know a letter grade does not show what a school is.”
Vasquez also mentioned that the ratings do not take into account the support or lack of support from the DOE and that the engagement system is politically motivated, rather than based on a strict set of guidelines.
“If you look at any of the schools mentioned, they’re struggling in different ways,” he said. “Why are they putting them for early engagement over other schools? It doesn’t make any sense. The only possibility is they’re looking for political reasons.”
Whatever results come from this year’s progress report, the union has stated their intension to work with and stick by the schools.
“If they decide to phase out any school, we’re going to go to that school and see what they want to do,” Vasquez said.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at email@example.com.
Other Schools In Trouble
|Also included in the DOE’s progress report were several Queens elementary and intermediate public schools that received poor marks. They include:
PS 040 Samuel Huntington , 109-20 Union Hall St., Jamaica (D)
PS 055 Maure, 131-10 97th Ave., Richmond Hill (D)
PS 071 Forest, 62-85 Forest Ave., Ridgewood (D)
PS 132 Ralph Bunche, 132-15 218th St., Laurelton (D)
PS 138 Sunrise, 251-11 Weller Ave., Rosedale (D)
PS 140 Edward K. Ellington, 166-01 116 Ave., Jamaica (F)
PS 156 Laurelton, 229-02 137th Ave., Laurelton (D)
PS 197 The Ocean School, 825 Hicksville Road, Far Rockaway (D)
PS 206 The Horace Harding School, 61-02 98th St., Rego Park (D)
Cynthia Jenkins School, 197-37 137th Ave., St. Albans (D)