Andrew Wolf has a good column in the Sun about the deceptive ads from the Fund for Public Schools, called "Evander Childs Turnaround". The statistics clearly show that the students who were recruited for the new Gates-funded small schools now housed in the Evander building were much higher achieving before they ever enrolled in these new schools than those who had previously attended the school, undermining the administration's claim that it was its reforms that improved graduation rates.
The NY Times last spring ran both a credulous article and an editorial that read like press releases about the rise in graduation rates in these schools, without mentioning this salient fact. An excerpt from Wolf’s column:
The Fund for New York City Public Schools, a charitable group run by the Chancellor that once raised money to buy things to enhance the education of our public school children, is now spending millions on television commercials to convince the public that the programs are working. One of these commercials, highlighting "progress" at
Wolf credits the statistical findings that the students enrolled in these new schools started out way aheadto a recent Eduwonkette column and one posted last spring on the UFT blog by
Almost two years earlier, I pointed out some of these same facts to the Panel on Educational Policy and the United Parents Associations, in a summary posted here. Much of it was based on a report by Policy Studies Associates completed in March 2005, but suppressed for many months by New Visions before it was finally leaked to the NY Times eight months later. The authors of the PSA report based their analysis on background student data received directly from DOE.
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. The fact that these schools provided much smaller classes was noted by students themselves in surveys as their most valuable quality. 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. …
In the 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." 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.
My more recent City Council testimony from last November is here, with more about how the new small schools not only excluded our neediest students, but also provided them with much smaller classes -- and how the administration has no plan to deal with the increasing inequities of the system it has created.
See also our earlier post about the Fund for Public School's deceptive ads that claim class sizes have been reduced in our schools -- and how this organization, which was founded to provide more resources and programs for students in our turned into a PR arm for the Mayor's political image.