District 27 Schools…Report cards point to problem areas

For southern Queens, the city Department of Education’s (DOE) recent progress report brought more tears than joy.
DOE officials evaluated all city public schools, grading each one on a scale of A to F. Of the 45 schools in District 27, the school district that serves the majority of south Queens, 21 received grades of C, D, or F. Eighteen schools received Bs, while two remain under review. Only four schools received a grade of A.
Schools that received “A” grades included Richmond Hill’s P.S. 62, as well as P.S. 100 and P.S. 108, each of South Ozone Park.
P.S. 60, of Woodhaven, P.S. 232 of Lindenwood, and P.S. 146 of Howard Beach all received Bs. Ozone Park’s M.S. 137, America’s School of Heroes, also received a B, along with P.S. 66 and P.S. 56, each of Richmond Hill.
Notable schools that did not fare as well included Horace Mann School of Richmond Hill, Elizabeth Blackwell Junior High School of Ozone Park, and Richmond Hill High School (RHHS), each of which received a C.
Even less encouraging were South Ozone Park’s Virgil I. Grissom School, which got a D, and P.S. 155, which was slapped with an F.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the DOE explained the grading system in a statement released in early November. Schools were graded in three areas: school environment counting for 15 percent, student performance counting for 30 percent, and student progress for the remaining 55 percent of the total grade. “School environment” grades were based on surveys handed out to students, parents and teachers last spring, while “student performance” grades measured English and Math test scores, as well as graduation rates for high school students. “Student progress” examined schools’ methods for helping their students improve from year to year.
Schools throughout the city that fared well will receive additional funding in exchange for continuing to implement programs and methods that serve as examples to other schools.
Conversely, D- and F-range schools are required to submit “action plans” that highlight steps for future improvement.
Parents whose children attend schools that failed the evaluation can request a transfer; schools that agree to accept transfer students will receive additional funding.
District 27 had more D- and F-range schools (six) than any other Queens school district. Representatives from specific schools - as well as District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey - did not return calls regarding the DOE grades, but civic leaders showed mild concern.
Simcha Waisman, President of the Richmond Hill Block Association, said he believes RHHS’ main problem is its large student body.
“The population is too big for the space that’s there,” said Waisman. “They have to downsize the school. You can’t have law and order in a school that big. I don’t think they have total control of the kids.”
Waisman said the problem is only getting worse, and fears that a poor reputation for RHHS could mean a dwindling influx of residents into Richmond Hill.
“I know people that have already moved out because of the school system,” he said.
But Andy Jacobs, a spokesperson for DOE, said that while Waisman’s concerns may hold water, school population was not a factor in the grading.
“I guarantee, you’ll find big schools and small schools that got A’s and D’s,” said Jacobs. “Our report focuses mainly on student outcomes.”
In regards to P.S. 155, of 130-02 115th Avenue in South Ozone Park, Jacobs said the biggest factor in the “F” grade the school received was its students’ poor progress in math.
“Our statistics found that only 37 percent of students at P.S. 155 showed a year’s worth of progress in Math in the last year,” said Jacobs. “Overall, on average, students actually went slightly backward.”
But DOE’s report does not serve exclusively to point out a school’s shortcomings, Jacobs said. It also provides direction for schools to improve.
“Schools that did poorly, we’re already working with them to set goals for the future,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is empower them with the knowledge of how they need to improve, and then allow them to make those changes.”
For results of the progress report or information on the evaluation of any school, visit DOE’s website at schools.nyc.gov.

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