A few months ago we did an analysis of the college-readiness numbers of the system’s high-school graduates. That analysis showed that the system’s college-readiness rate – 22.2% — was largely attributable to a small number of high schools. The 35 schools that made up the top 10 percent of high schools contributed nearly half of the graduates ready for college, while hundreds of other high schools had college-ready rates in the single digits.
That same pattern – a “tale of two school systems” – is echoed in the results of the recent state tests on grades 3-8 based on the Common Core standards. In these most recent tests, as in the college-ready statistics, a minority of high-achieving schools helped camouflage much lower results in the majority of schools.
In these new tests based on the much more demanding Common Core standards, only about 26 percent of grade 3-8 students citywide were judged proficient in reading and 30 percent proficient in math, far below the achievement levels on previous state tests. But even this unimpressive level was not reached by the great majority of elementary and middle schools. In these schools student achievement was lower – sometimes much lower — than the citywide average.
One quarter of schools produce half to two-thirds of proficient students
Another way to think about this: About 175 elementary schools – out of a total of 600 – educate at least half of the city’s proficient math and ELA students. Of the city’s roughly 350 middle schools, only 90 account for more than two-thirds of the city’s proficient math and English students.
So a student at one of these schools has – mathematically at least – an excellent chance of passing these tests. But the opposite is also true. Students at the remaining hundreds of schools face much larger challenges, particularly at the roughly 275 schools where only 10 percent of children – or fewer — scored proficient in either reading or math.
Same old same old
The Bloomberg administration has consistently reported the numbers in a way that uses an “average” to de-emphasize the problems at hundreds of low-achieving schools. While the new Common Core tests have changed the definition of proficiency, their results are consistent with the pattern of achievement – and underachievement — for so many New York City schools.
When the city’s 600 elementary schools are ranked into top, second, third and bottom quartiles by their 2013 scores on the Common Core tests, more than 70 percent land in the same quartile they did based on the state tests from 2012.
For the 352 middle schools with two years of math results, 68 percent maintained their rank. Even those that changed ranking generally moved just one quartile: half of those that changed went up one quartile, and 43 percent went down one. Only five schools moved two quartiles up or down.