ew York City’s public school system, with its chronic and widespread low performance, is more than enough to shave a few years off a black parent’s life. But some schools are significantly better than others — if not excellent — and not all of them are dominated by wealthy whites.
When the city last graded all public schools — for the 2009-2010 school year — more than two dozen majority black schools came out on top. Twenty-seven majority black New York City public schools earned an overall “A” and nothing less than a “B” on all measures. Seven of those schools earned a quadruple-A, i.e. an “A” on every measure.
Moreover, nearly all the high-performing schools are really poor and overwhelmingly black. Seventy-nine percent of students at the median school received free or reduced price lunch. Eighty-five percent of students at the median school were black.
The annual grade each New York City public school receives is published in its annual progress report. The scores range from “A” to “F” and are based on student progress (60%), student performance (25%), and school environment (15%). The scores rank the schools relative to schools with similar demographics and relative to all schools citywide.
The progress reports definitely aren’t perfect indicators of school performance. At a New School forum last year, a DOE official admitted as much, but said the reports are necessary. Partly because of the reports, “for the first time in New York City, we’re actually seeing the kind of improvement we want to see in our schools,” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, then the city’s deputy chancellor for performance and accountability.
The city plans to improve the 2010-2011 reports. Until then, let’s use the data to help pick our children’s schools and help motivate the rest of our schools to improve. If these 27 schools can do it, with all their challenges, the rest can too.