••• Just got the “backpack letter” that P.S. 234 principal Lisa Ripperger sent out today regarding the school’s “C” grade.
Tuesday morning you rose to news of the Department of Education announcing our school’s Progress Report grade of a C. No matter the grade or school, the yearly release of progress reports has little context or explanation, and tends to leave school communities confused. For the past six years, since this grading system was introduced, PS 234 has been given three Bs and three As, including an A last year. You have never heard me talk about those grades in a letter home or at a PTA meeting. While instability in the grading formula makes it predictable that most schools grades go up and down, it never seemed fitting before to write about this when our grade was higher. Testing should never define your child’s experience of school. I have always expected that eventually our school would receive a grade lower than an A or a B, but never wanted to convey that we were focused more on children’s test scores than on the children themselves.
This letter will attempt to communicate a few key ideas about how this grade is comprised. However, it’s confusing and complex and if you are interested in more detailed information, I have asked a brilliant data specialist inside our school’s network to address you next week, Wednesday, October 10th at 8:35 in the auditorium, to lay out a fuller explanation.
– At least 85% of an elementary school’s progress report grade comes from its state test scores.
– Each school is compared to other schools with similar populations.
– The majority of schools’ grades come from the Progress category – how much each child’s score changes from year to year.
Our challenge is that our students do well on the five days of state ELA and Math tests. In the progress report grading system, a school with test scores that drop can be credited for good progress, while a school with scores that rise can be credited with poor progress. For two schools compared to each other, the total differences across five days of testing can be almost imperceptible. An overall grade of A and an overall grade of F can come down to as little less than one-half of a multiple-choice answer per child per day.
– If our grade actually affected children, you would have heard from me about it long ago.
– This progress report does not affect our school’s funding.
– This progress report does not affect your child’s middle school options.
What should you do with this information?
There’s a reason reporters show up at PS 234 almost every year when the grades come out. We have a tradition as a very visible school… but that visibility didn’t grow because of testing. Consider all you know about your child’s and your experience at PS 234. How does your child talk about her day? What is the level of specificity your child’s teacher is able to speak to you about your child? How thoughtful does he or she seem to be in communicating their thoughts to you as a parent? What are all the ways in which your child’s learning is valued, assessed and promoted? This year, we are certainly looking hard at scores to see patterns to adjust our teaching… just as we did last year when we received an A. But scores will never be all we see.
Again, we hope to see you at our meeting for lots of details about progress reports on October 10th at 8:35. Until then, we’ll get right back to teaching, learning, and children.
••• Classes at Barry’s Bootcamp start Saturday. To reserve a spot, look for the “Buy Classes” tab at the top of barrysbootcamp.com.
••• Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan will be at 92YTribeca on Nov. 8. And on Nov. 14, the venue hosts a look back at Free to Be You and Me on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. I think Free to Be had a tremendous impact on my worldview.
••• A fun little rant showed up in my email this morning: “Apropos of nothing… have you ever noticed the price of beer at the new Key Foods on Fulton? they’re outrageous and completely out of their freakin’ minds… i know that (nearly) everything on this island is overpriced, but the cost of a simple six pack of suds there is rediculous. it’s like getting dragged down the street by a cab, then having someone rub lemon juice and salt in your gaping wound while poking an ice pick in your eardrum. they should be ashamed! when they were old skool in their little bodegas style store off Gold street you could buy a 6 pack for $7 or $8 bucks… now they want $15.49 for the same damn thing! Go scratch, as my father-in-law would say!”
••• I should’ve said this about the Art for Obama fundraisier/party that I mentioned the other day: The art is literally floor-to-ceiling, and spread over several floors. (The photo at left is but a taste—and yes, the crumbling wall is art.) It’s like a private museum. Go!
••• And one last tidbit about the Inside Tribeca Loft Tour…. There was one apartment on the press preview that we couldn’t shoot (the owner, an interior designer, is working on getting it published). It was pretty fantastic—that’s it at the top of the building below—and not just because of the climbing wall. At $60 advance, the Loft Tour is one of the great values around here, and don’t wait till the day of to get your tickets. Not only are the $5 more, they sell out. It’s Oct. 14.