Over the summer I posted the college-ready rates for old and new schools showing how the schools that were created under Michael Bloomberg actually have lower college-ready rates than the older schools with similar populations. The DOE college-ready rates are based upon how many students passed English and Math Regents with good grades (specifics on the data appears at the end of the post). We can accept this as a good measure or not, but in any case it is a viable measure in the eyes of DOE.
The DOE updated the college-ready information when it released the high school Progress Reports this autumn, so I ran the analysis again. The results are the same, or maybe even worse. College ready rates are low everywhere, but when we break the schools into deciles by level of need, and then compare new and old schools, we see that newer schools are having a harder time getting their students ready for college. Here, for example, are the four deciles that represent schools in the middle of the citywide need range.
And here are all of the deciles except for the 10th where there are too few new schools to make a fair comparison.
In some cases, even the old schools targeted for closing have higher college ready rates. For example, here is a chart comparing college readiness at Lehman High School, with the schools that DOE has identified as similar. The DOE gave Lehman High School an F on its Progress Report, the lowest grade in its group. Yet Lehman has a higher percentage of college ready students than almost every other school. Again, new schools are green and old schools are purple.
Note that nine out of the ten schools with the lowest rate of college readiness are new schools. Meanwhile, Lehman has higher rates than 28 of the 32 other schools with data. The two schools on the far right that outperformed by a rather large leap have no self-contained students in their student body, while Lehman has a population that is 8% self-contained, the highest in its peer group. Because these students face significant challenges that makes even graduation difficult, it is not surprising that schools without these students would have more college-ready students than Lehman.
In all, while the targeted Lehman has 15.2% college-ready, the similar new schools in its peer group average only 6.5%. The old schools (even without Lehman) average 10.1%.
What is true for Lehman is true for other targeted schools as well. Three other old schools targeted for closing (but none of the newer ones) have college ready rates above 10%, and above their similar – school average. And while this is surely not stellar performance, keep in mind that city wide, only about 20% of students are college ready – and that there are 54 schools with under 5% college ready that are not being considered for closing at all.
In any case, citywide , old schools are outperforming new schools when it comes to college-readiness, and it seems hard to justify replacing existing schools with newer ones when the DOE doesn’t know what to do in the new schools once they open them, other than to measure what goes on.
Which is, of course, DOE’s solution to the college-ready crisis: to measure it and use it as a threat. Next year, schools will be “held accountable” in the Progress Reports for higher college-readiness rates, but it is one thing to pressure schools to improve the numbers, and another to focus on educating kids. When DOE wanted high school students to pass more classes, for example, it put credit accumulation into the Progress Reports and voila! — credit accumulation shot right up. But as it turned out, the group of schools with the higher credit accumulation on average (and that was the new schools) was also producing fewer students who were college ready when compared to similar schools. Were students really learning more, or had accountability simply lowered standards and changed the direction of the school system for the worse?
I will skip the possible explanations for the differences between college-ready rates in old and new school results, because I covered that in the summer post, and you can read them there. But as DOE gears up to close and open another batch of schools, Bloomberg and New York City’s leadership need to decide when they’ve finally had enough.
The DOE college-ready metric is based on the English and Math Regents tests. Students must earn a Regents diploma, a 75 or higher on the English Regents, an 80 or higher on one math Regents and complete coursework in Algebra II/Trigonometry. Scores of 480 or higher on the SAT can be substituted.
All schools that have both grades and college-ready data are included in this research. The level of need is determined by the DOE’s own need index (the peer index), and there are thirty-three schools in each group. The groups are roughly balanced between old and new schools (with an average of 15 new and 18 old schools per group).
The tenth group, which I did not include in the chart, includes too few new schools to make a fair comparison. There, too, however, the older schools outperformed new schools. Many of the old schools in this group are extremely low-need and some work with the most academically prepared students in the city.
New schools are defined as all schools that opened in 2003 or later.