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D is for Demographics Part II: Closing Schools are Owed an Apology and a Reprieve

Yesterday I said that High School Progress Reports were driven to a significant extent by a buried demographic: the populations of high-need/self contained Special Education students. Some schools took on these challenging students when other schools did not. Now, instead of being supported for it, they are being punished with low grades and threat of closure.

What follows are some charts I did not have time to post yesterday.

As we know, a school’s grade is largely determined by its performance relative to its peer group’s performance. Each dot on the chart below represents one of the schools in the peer groups of closing High Schools. Along the side of the chart is the percent of high-need Special Education students within the Special Education population.

Of the sixty-nine “A” schools in the peer group, forty had 5% or fewer of their Special Education students identified as “high-need.”

Schools with A's

There were also were eighteen “D” schools in the peer group. When we look at their level of high-need Special Education students in schools getting a D, the graph is reversed.

Schools with D's

Among schools with D’s, all except two had over 25% of their Special Education students in this category. A full third had over 55% of their Special Education students in this category. It’s pretty much the opposite of A’s.

Put it together and it looks like this:

Schools with A's and Schools with D's

Scatter-plots are fun to look at, but the teenagers in our high schools are not dots on a chart. They are students whose academic, social, or behavioral challenges are so significant that they are placed in classes of only 12 students. Schools that work with these students — and that means our closing schools — provide these young adults with lots of academic, emotional and social support — a tough job, and one that requires huge resources from the schools and the people who work there. But it’s not just a tough job. It’s also a labor of love because for the teachers and principals who work with these students these kids are worth it.

DOE’s management has made a mistake in its Progress Reports. What it owes our schools is an apology and a reprieve, not punishment.

DOE, are you listening?



  • 1 Christine Rowland
    · Jan 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for all of your work on disparate impact Jackie. It seems that several respected sources including Advocates for Children and the Independent Budget Office are coming up with similar findings.

    Do you know if there are plans by any organizations representing the impacted communities to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights?

  • 2 Bronxactivist
    · Jan 29, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    As a teacher of a self contained classroom I understand that not all students are created equally. Some students have multiple disabilities and the Department of Education classifies them under the dominant disability. Many students with learning disabilities also have behavioral issues or vice verse. Many times the mandates change yearly yet the teachers are not updated to the changes made to students IEP procedures. Unfortunately, there is no centralized PD or any incentive for teachers or administrators to take on the extra workload of dealing with students with multiple disabilities. On top of the problems they face being at a low socio-economic level students face a stigma as not being “normal”. Before the special ed supervisors gave out information and made sure that teachers had up to date information along with administrators being kept abreast of any changes in policy. Now principals are in charge of an area that most do not have practical experience in and is complicated. There are tons are regulations and procedures. The DOE came up with a complex, more then 300 page manual, to deal with explaining the pieces of the puzzle the Standard Operations Manual along with a plethora of documents to make the situation more clear is that each region/district has their own way of handling situations. Fix the mess of special education the way its run in the DOE before blaming teachers or schools for the lack of student performance.

  • 3 Martin Krongold
    · Feb 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    These are reasonable facts with a foregone conclusion. It is not rigorous analysis. It’s not unreasonable to assume that schools with the most difficult populations will have less progress. The question is whether DOE is selecting only schools with high SC or are there other schools with similar levels that are not being closed. Second, DOE now excludes students with IEP’s from PR analysis and has lowered weighted HS peer indexes to incorporate schools with more SE and overage kids. This will reduce PR report failure rates by comparing them to more schools in their accurate peer. This work is a valuable step, but it states the obvious not the big picture.

    Many of these kids are excluded from PR calculations, and the DOE corrects for their impact by adjusting Peer Index, but let’s say the DOE is still wrong. We’re talking about 55% of what percentage of the school? 8% to 17% or so? OK, so your analysis (which has value) is about 4% to 9% of the school! It’s not a reason to fully condemn the PR’s. Sorry, it’s only convincing to those who toil under the PR’s parameters.

  • 4 Christine Rowland
    · Feb 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    The only students excluded from PR analysis in any way are those very few who are considered ‘alternative assessment’ or non-diploma bound (meeting NYSAA criteria). This is a very small percentage of a school’s IEP population. The majority of students with IEPs – both low and high need are most certainly included in all measures of the high school progress reports.

    Until now, only alternative assessment students have been excluded and then only from graduation rate. There is now a proposal on the table to remove them from credit accumulation measures also. But this is still a proposal – not yet a regulation.

    The vast majority of students with IEPs are included in all aspects of the high school progress reports – maybe someone else could speak to the earlier grades.