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theschoolboards
01-20-2011, 10:18 AM
This from the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/education/20grades.html) by Sharon Otterman:
When report card grades were released in the fall for the city’s 455 high schools, the highest score (http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2009-10/Progress_Report_Overview_2010_HS_X225.pdf) went to a small school (http://www.tapconyc.org/) in a down-and-out section of the Bronx called Theater Arts Production Company School (http://schools.nyc.gov/SchoolPortals/10/X225/default.htm).

A stunning 94 percent of its seniors graduated, more than 30 points above the citywide average. The school, which has about 500 students from grades 6 through 12, achieved a nearly perfect score in the category of “student progress,” based partly on course credits earned by students.

“When I interviewed for the school,” said Sam Buchbinder, a history teacher, “it was made very clear: this is a school that doesn’t believe in anyone failing.”

That statement was not just an exhortation to excellence. It was school policy.

By order of the principal, codified in the school’s teacher handbook, all teachers should grade their classes in the same way: 30 percent of students should earn a grade in the A range, 40 percent B’s, 25 percent C’s, and no more than 5 percent D’s. As long as they show up, they should not fail.

While giving students second and third chances to make up work is not unusual at New York City public schools, several former and current teachers say they believe that some of the school’s practices have crossed the line into impropriety. In practice, some teachers said, even students who missed most of the school days earned credits. They also said students were promoted with over 100 absences a year; the principal, rather than a teacher, granted class credits needed for graduation; and credit was awarded for classes the school does not even offer.

On Wednesday, the city said it had opened an investigation into how grades were awarded at the school, including whether students were awarded credits for classes that were not offered, and whether records were changed to improve student attendance statistics.

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/education/20grades.html)

theschoolboards
01-21-2011, 09:30 AM
A follow up from the N.Y. Times (http://www.theschoolboards.com/Bronx%20School%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s%20Top%20Ranking% 20Stirs%20Wider%20Doubts%20About%20Rating%20System ) by Fernanda Santos:
One of the trademarks of New York City’s school accountability system is an equation that assigns every school a letter grade, A through F, based on a numerical score from 1 to 100.

A parent pulling up the latest report card for the Theater Arts Production Company School in the Bronx would find that it earned the score of 106.3 (including extra credit).

But that very empiric-sounding number, which was the highest of any high school in the city, is based in part on subjective measures like “academic expectations” and “engagement,” as measured by voluntary parent, teacher and student surveys.

And, according to some teachers at the school (http://schools.nyc.gov/SchoolPortals/10/X225/default.htm), even the more tangible factors in the score — graduation rates and credits earned by students — were not to be taken at face value. The school has a policy that no student who showed up for class should fail, and even some who missed many days of school were still allowed to pass and graduate.

The Department of Education, which revealed on Wednesday that it was investigating grading practices at the school, says that it has a team devoted to analyzing school statistics every year and looking for red flags like abnormal increases in student scores or dropout rates. But a department official said that nothing in its data had raised suspicions about the school, known as Tapco, until a whistle-blower filed a complaint in October.

Still, in a data-driven system where letter grades can determine a school’s fate, one big question looms over the investigation: If the allegations turn out to be true, are they an exception or a sign of a major fault in the school accountability system?

read more>> (http://www.theschoolboards.com/Bronx%20School%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s%20Top%20Ranking% 20Stirs%20Wider%20Doubts%20About%20Rating%20System )