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Graduation Rates, Progess Report Scores and DoE

At the request of a commenter on my recent post, I am posting a second, more detailed chart on the relationship of graduation rates to the percent of self-contained special education students. Graduation Rates decline as the percentages of self-contained students in a school rise. As self-evident as this relationship is to anyone in the schools, Tweed continually points to graduation rates at some of our closing schools and then claims that other schools with similar populations do better. However the DoE peer schools with supposedly similar populations often serve few or no self contained special education students. Graduation rates generally track the rate of self-contained special education in a school: as the population goes up, the graduation rates go down.  The same is true for the overall score on the Progress Report.

Graduation Rate and Progress Report Score vs. Self-Contained Special EdIt seems impossible to me that Tweed would not be well aware of the situation shown above, and equally aware that when statistics track across demographics, it is no longer the quality of the school or the quality of the teachers being measured, but the level of challenges that self-contained students bring to school. How can DoE not know? Haven’t newer schools been exempt from admitting these students for just that reason?

And meanwhile, lest the thought here is that I am advocating for a shrug of the shoulders and an abandonment of these students, let me assure you I am not. With a lot of individual attention and intelligent, cohesive work, self-contained students can experience tremendous success in school. But that’s not the kind of thing Tweed has encouraged. Read this comment left on Edwize from one special education teacher in the Bronx:

… special ed classrooms are the ones with the least resources. Technology, academic programs are given to the self-contained classes last. Even though special ed allocations are higher per student, principals tend to divert resources away from special education. Delivering the services are expensive and principals are hesitant to invest all their resources on students that traditionally have not performed as well on standardized test. I have students at a 1st grade level, 2nd grade level and 3rd grade level in an 8th grade class. I have had students that are at grade level but … that is the exception not the general rule. The work is grueling and it takes a lot of dedication and planning on the behalf of the teacher. I teach three major subjects and receive minimum support because none of the A.P.s or principals have special education experience or training…The principals are overseers of complex laws and regulations that they do not have knowledge about. So blaming the kids, blaming the teachers or even the principals for such an absurd system is flawed. Tweed should be blamed for not having a system in place to support the special ed classrooms.



  • 1 Bob Calder
    · Feb 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Which of the children in the special ed class are included in the testing and graduation statistics for the school in New York?

    One might think that the commissioner is attempting to turn the clock back to a time when special education children had their own school. He is apparently setting up a filter made of charter schooling to keep various special needs populations away from the general population.

  • 2 Jackie Bennett
    · Feb 10, 2010 at 11:20 am

    For the second time this week I have a typo, this time right in the title. Usually I hold off until at least the second paragraph.

    Regarding the graduation rates and who is included:

    I used the graduation rates listed on the data sets available for the 2009 Progress Reports because these are the rates the DoE used when it graded schools that did and did not served self-contained students against each other. No one in the schools that serve these students would be surprised by the different graduation rates, but they might be surprised to find they were graded schools that did not serve them.

    The Progress Report 4-year graduation rate takes into account all students including students in self-contained classes. IEP diplomas are not counted as diplomas. I believe this is the same way the state counts. The DoE Educator Guide says that in the Progress Report , the 4-Year rate includes “all students who are assigned to the 2005 cohort year .”

    In addition, as in my previous post on grad rates, the posted chart is made from the data available for schools in the composite peer group of the closing schools — approximately 190 in all. The peer groups are written on each school’s Progress Report and the data itself comes from the High School Progress Report data sets and the Special Education Delivery Reports.

    It is possible that other demographic or statistical factors drove school grades, and that in a more thorough analysis the influence of self-contained students would be better understood . It would also be interesting to know the impact of self-contained students on the allocation of school resources as a whole, since the impact of self-contained students on a school cannot be measured simply by looking at their own graduation rates.

    In any case, the DoE argues that the schools are failures, and bases that argument on Progress Reports and the graduation rates that are a part of them. What I see when I look at the same numbers are statistical errors and demographic differences, and the inadequate response of a DoE that does little more than incentivize and punish the people trying to make a difference in teenage lives.

    And the irony is this: what is likely to happen as a result of these closings? DoE with all its emphasis on information will dismantle some strong programs developed by the people who actually work with these students. They will dismantle them without any without any serious, rigorous – and truer — analysis of what works – -and with no plan whatsoever to replace what they destroy.

    The DoE data sets and Educator Guide can be found here:

  • 3 jd2718
    · Feb 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

    City schools are measured by NY State accountability. I’m not claiming that SED does a good job, but the Progress Reports are
    (1) flawed
    (2) redundant
    (3) costly

    If they were just a waste of money… but no, they actually do damage (school closings, right? but also all the time wasted in schools preparing for multiple, contradictory accountability measures – all the education kids are getting cheated out of)

    It’s time to dump the entire NYCDoE accountability office.


  • 4 Peter
    · Apr 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I’m certain that Fair Student Funding, like ‘school choice’ will be found in the research, in the next year or so, to have contributed to lower student outcomes (high stakes tests scores) precisely because of the reasons you cite, and your anecdotal evidence, which mirrors mine in a self-contained middle school classroom.There must be a way (a FOIL?) to get itemized budgets from empowerment schools (all nyc public schools are empowerment schools now in that ALL principals have total discretion over their budgets). Any ideas?