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Small Schools and Charters Get Top Marks in Ed Department Progress Reports

By  Amy Zimmer and Colby Hamilton | November 13, 2013 3:15pm 

 Nine of the top 10 scoring high school were small schools or charters, according to DOE data.
Nine of the top 10 scoring high school were small schools or charters, according to DOE data.
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CIVIC CENTER — The Department of Education released its annual round of school progress reports Wednesday — and of the list of the top 10 high schools, nine of them were small schools or charter schools created under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's watch, according to the data.

Schools created since Bloomberg took office in 2001 and charter schools — which have exploded across the city since then — received more A and B grades than schools overall, DOE officials noted.

"The most important job of our schools is ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and their careers,” said schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “These results are further evidence that the hard work of our teachers and principals is paying off.”

The creation of small schools has been a hallmark of the Bloomberg Administration, which built more than 650 of these schools while closing more than 150. The number of charter schools, during Michael Bloomberg's tenure, skyrocketed from 17 to 183, according to reports.

The No. 1 ranked school, It Takes a Village Academy, a small school in East Flatbush's Tilden Educational Complex, earned an overall score of 105.9 on the DOE's controversial calculation, which officials say evaluates the school's overall performance but critics have blasted as unfair.

It Takes a Village Academy took in most of its ninth grade entering class with a below-grade reading level, but helped more than 90 percent graduate in four years, according to Inside Schools. The No. 2 school was The Academy for Careers in Television and Film in Long Island City, which trains students for jobs in film production; followed by the Brooklyn International High School in Downtown Brooklyn, which is geared toward new immigrants.

The Green Dot New York Charter School, a charter school in the South Bronx that unlike other charters employs unionized teachers, came in at No. 4, and the Manhattan Village Academy, a Gramercy Park college prep program where students wear uniforms, rounded out the top five.  Staten Island Technical High School — one of the city's eight specialized schools — was the only large school that made it into the top 10, according to DOE data.

The city awards schools letter grades based on students' progress, performance, and attendance, as well as surveys of parents, students, and teachers. High School reports also measure how well schools are preparing students for college and careers, DOE officials explained, noting that this year's results found more students ready for higher education and the workforce.  

Overall, most schools remained consistent, with 87 percent of maintaining their grade or moving one grade compared to last year, DOE officials said.

This year's elementary and middle school reports took into account the new, more rigorous state exams aligned to the Common Core standards, which less than 30 percent of third- through eighth graders passed. The reports also took into account the impact of Hurricane Sandy on schools, DOE officials said.

Officials from the United Federation of Teachers called the grading process unfair and unscientific, and questioned whether the DOE's progress reports would continue in their current form, where schools are graded on a curve.

Bloomberg has been hit with a wave of criticism over his handling of the city's school system since he dismantled the Board of Education and placed the system under mayoral control in 2002.

His tenure at the helm has been marked by controversy over high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations, and merit pay. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has said he will continue to keep schools under mayoral control. But he has openly criticized high-stakes testing, charter schools and union busting.

In a statement, Lis Smith, a de Blasio spokeswoman, said the mayor-elect "supports making overall school progress reports available to parents" even as "he would eliminate letter grades of schools which offer little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing."