Stuyvesant, Bard Just Missed Mediocrity

349067284_6764521826.jpgStuyvesant High School was almost given a C in the news public school grading system announced this week, according to sources. Photo by Wallyg via flickr

By John DeSio Were the reputations of two of the City's top public high schools nearly destroyed by the Department of Education? According to reports making their way around top education circles in the City, yes indeed. But city Department of Education spokesman denies the charge.

On Tuesday the Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced with great fanfare the first-ever “school progress reports” for public schools. The reports measure school progress based on a variety of factors, with an especially heavy emphasis on overall student improvement. Many have already complained that the formula puts high-performing schools at a great disadvantage, since they are unlikely to see real improvement from year to year.

Stuyvesant High School, considered possibly the best public high school in the world, and Bard High School Early College, a school highly sought after by City parents, almost found out first-hand just how that lack of year-to-year improvement can damage a school within the new “progress report” system. According to multiple reports from insiders within the education community both schools were initially given a “C” grade under the new system, a mark that by no means reflects their actual academic achievement.

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An aggressive reworking of the grades over the weekend changed Stuyvesant’s “C” to an “A,” said two high-level education officials. Sources even report that Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, made a personal appeal to Klein, urging him to reconsider the grade for his college’s namesake high school. The Department of Education’s website indicates that Bard High School Early College’s progress report is still “undergoing review.”

A Department of Education spokesman denied that Stuyvesant had its grades changed and said Bard was simply late in filing the necessary paperwork.

“Any suggestion that Stuyvesant or Bard were given preferential treatment is entirely mistaken," said DOE spokesman David Cantor." Stuyvesant never scored below an A in any version of its progress report. Anyone can look at the data online and see that it scores just where you’d think: among the very best schools in the city. Bard, like nearly two dozen other high schools, does not yet have a grade because it did not make data available in a timely way.”

Bronx City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell has already come out swinging against the Department of Education, calling for the department to withdraw and revise the progress reports for every school. “Although I believe that schools who have improved the performance of traditionally low performing students should be acknowledged, I do not believe this should be done at the expense of outstanding schools,” said Koppell. “If schools already have high student scores, it’s almost impossible for these schools to get an ‘A.’”

Koppell pointed out that several schools in his district where fewer than half of their students have passed their standardized reading and math tests were given “A’s,” while other schools where 80 percent of their students passed the same tests got lower grades.

“I believe the report cards should be revised to differentiate between schools who are doing well with struggling students and those who have high levels of student achievement, so as not to cause parents to lose confidence in neighborhood schools that have traditionally had excellent academic results,” said Koppell.

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