Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nailing BloomKlein's Ass to the Wall

Leonie Haimson posted this on her nyceducationnews listserve yesterday (Friday). Read her and her band of merry men (and women) on the NYC Public School Parent blog.


Andy Wolf wrote a good column [Friday] on how the students accepted at the small schools compared to the large are very different, putting in question the administration’s claims of improving graduation rates by closing down the large schools and replacing them with small ones. He credits these findings to a recent Eduwonkette column and an earlier one on the UFT blog by Leo Casey from March 2007
here. Both were good analyses, and it’s good that this issue is finally receiving the attention it deserves, but it is long overdue.

Leonie points to some background material she has posted in the past:

In November 2005 I presented [a report] to the PEP and the UPA here: http://www.classsizematters.org/smallschoolsreport.html

Many of my observations were based on a report by Policy Studies Associates completed in March 2005, suppressed for many months by New Visions, and then leaked to the NY Times in Nov. 2005 – which had many of the same findings and facts and more, based upon background student data gotten directly from DOE.

The PSA report examined not just the new schools placed in Evander but throughout the Bronx. It also showed how the creation of the small schools had led to worse conditions and more overcrowding for all those students left behind in the large schools.

Here is an excerpt of the summary that I presented in Nov. 2005: http://www.classsizematters.org/smallschoolsreport.html

By gaining access to student records, the analysis substantiates what DOE officials have long denied – that these schools recruit students with better scores, attendance, and overall records than the population from which they are drawn. See for example the recent NYC Partnership report -- which misleadingly compares NCHS students to the average student citywide.


As the Policy Studies report points out, "These citywide comparisons are of only limited usefulness, since [this] initiative is intended to improve education opportunities and outcomes for students who might otherwise attend some of the city's most troubled high schools." Thus their evaluation properly compares the earlier records of students at the new small schools to those attending neighboring or host comprehensive high schools.

The students at the small schools had eighth grade math and reading scores significantly higher than their peers in the comparison schools; and 97% of them had been promoted in the prior year, compared with only 59% of the students at the comparison schools. They had better attendance records (91% compared to 81%), and were less likely to have been suspended. They were much less likely to need special education services. Only six percent of Bronx NCHS students had IEPs, compared with 25% at the comparison schools; and none of the NCHS special education students had the most serious disabilities.


Indeed, teachers at the new small schools praised their principals for "recruiting more high-performing students".

I also pointed out that these schools did appear to be doing a better job keeping their students engaged – something ignored by the recent exposes – but not because of the small size of the schools, but primarily because of their smaller classes:

While the students attending small schools maintained their previously good attendance, even the subset of students who previously had good attendance who enrolled at the larger high schools experienced a 10% drop in attendance in 9th grade. And while 6% of NCHS students transferred schools, and 10% were discharged from the system entirely, the transfer rate among incoming students at the larger schools was 14% and the discharge rate was 20% -- showing that more than a third of these students departed from the larger schools each year. …

Why were the new small schools more successful at keeping their students engaged? Students reported that their teachers were able to know them well, give them individualized instruction and help, and provide lots of attention in and out of class. As one pointed out, "the teachers I have had at other schools never knew me." While class sizes at the larger high schools average 30 students or more, class sizes at most of the new small schools were between 13 and 20 students, as pointed out by the first year evaluation. 9 The fact that these schools provided much smaller classes was noted by students themselves in surveys as their most valuable quality.10 As a result, “Teachers listen to you and get your opinion.” “In a normal high school, they don’t talk to you when you have a problem. They don’t care.” Another student said, “Slipping through the cracks? Not at this school!” Indeed, without smaller classes it's hard to see how these schools could succeed in their mission at all. …

And what about the majority of New York City students, who will continue to attend our larger high schools?

In the recent New Visions interim report, there is a timeline in which by 2010, "innovative educational methods from NYC's small high schools" are supposed to "improve teaching and learning at the city's traditional high schools." 12 This is critical, since even if its ambitious goal is achieved of 200 new smaller schools, fully two thirds of NYC students will continue to attend larger high schools.

As the class size in the small schools appear to be their most successful elements, without a plan to eventually provide smaller classes and more individualized instruction to all high school students, it is difficult to see how this will ever occur. “

My more recent City Council testimony is here Feb. 16 2007 here, with updated info on how the new small schools not only exclude our neediest students, but also provide them w/ smaller classes -- and how the city has no plan to deal w/ the increasing inequities of the system it has created.

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