Friday, June 17, 2005

Test scores aren't so rosy in Queens

With Bloomberg asking voters to judge him on his education record, test scores this year have sparked a lot of debate. Democratic mayoral candidate (and speaker of the City Council) Gifford Miller is attacking Bloomberg over the mayor's education record. Bloomberg has been all smiles over increases in language arts and math test scores in city public schools for 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th graders. It's hard to know if things are actually improving with all the spin and politics, but nothing has changed (or it has gotten worse) at the middle school in Queens where I work. Only 75 8th graders will be graduating this year, while the remaining 220 or so will be in summer school. The school has to open up a new floor at its summer building to accommodate them all. Most failed the city math test. It must have been a terrible day yesterday when most of the 8th graders were told they couldn't get their cap and gown for graduation.


Fred said...

There are many reasons why 220 students could have failed. You have combinations of teachers, parents, administration, facilities, and curriculum. (Anything I'm leaving out?)

From your observation, what's the big issue?

EdWonk said...

The California middle school where I teach is entering its third year as an underperforming school; our administration doesn't sense a crisis...

Fred said...

Ed - this is exactly why I'm asking the question. There's a high school seven miles north of us. They earned a "C"; we earned a "B". Our demographics are less favorable than theirs. Why did we do better?

I wholly credit the single-mindedness of our school administration to do the right thing.

For any student that is not performing at grade level, their schedule is adjusted to put them into remedial classes. No discussion. If the parents have an issue, we give them directions to other schools in the area.

They get additional homerooms, basic “how to use a calculator” classes, and a lunch that is a bit shorter to allow them more time in the classroom. Not every high school does that – it’s their choice.

Since I’m based in the south, I’m wondering what the issues are in this particular school in NYC and what we can learn from the failure of so many students.

chris said...

Fred - You're right that problem is the result of a combination of factors. Since I work mostly with parents, I tend to point to the lack of parent involvement (there are many reasons for this, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that around 70 percent of the parents are immigrants and most cannot communicate with their children's teachers).

There are plenty of other factors. The school is in a rough area. Many students have serious problems at home. But what is striking to me is how low the expectations are for these kids. The ones that actually passed the tests were almost too excited about it, and everyone assumes they will go to the nearby underperforming high school instead of finding a better, specialized one outside of the neighborhood. Maybe your school has succeeded by convincing kids (and parents) that they should expect to be successful.

Fred said...

Chris: Thanks. One of the recent posts>from Edwonks may help. I'm heartened by this approach - I believe we're becoming less firm based on parental complaints, potential litigation, etc. It's time to charge ahead with "tough love" and ensure our kids are getting the education they deserve.