One-Fourth of New York City Schools Are Failing Their Students, New Report Says

By Denisa R. Superville — July 31, 2014 2 min read
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At nearly a quarter of New York City public schools, 90 percent of the students cannot do math or read at grade level, according to a report released Thursday by Families for Excellent Schools, a city-based education advocacy group that promotes charter schools.

Those schools, 371 in all, enroll a student population of 143,000 — more than the combined education systems of Seattle, Sacramento, Calif., and Atlanta. And the failing schools are primarily located in the city’s poor, minority neighborhoods, according to the report.

The tone of the report, “The Forgotten Fourth,” is one of alarm, with the authors saying, at various points, that nothing short of the “social and economic fabric” of the city was at stake if nothing was done, and, in another instance, that those schools were putting children “on the road to nowhere.”

The report, however, is careful to note that the situation is not hopeless because of the availability of excellent school options in the city, at both charter and district schools. (While Families for Excellent Schools is a pro-charter group, the report was quick to point out that this was not a debate about charter schools, but about quality schools.)

“We are a city at risk,” the report notes. “Thousands of kids, especially those in our poorest communities, are shut out of high quality schools. For these children, success in school means simply to endure the day. Year after year, they are cheated out of skills required to graduate high school. To attend college. To launch a career.”

The analysis used 2013 data on student performance on New York State English/language arts and math exams and on the state’s Regents exams to determine college readiness.

The data were from 2013, the first year that students took tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards; but the authors said the difficulties associated with the rollout did not explain the dismal results. The schools had been failing for more than a decade, even under less stringent, pre-Common Core-aligned tests.

In some neighborhoods, including Brownsville, the South Bronx, and Bedford Stuyvesant, failing schools outnumbered good options, the report says. In Brownsville, for example, 11 of the 17 elementary schools had an average passing rate on the English/language arts and math exams of 10 percent or less. Of the six schools that exceeded 10 percent, the highest was less than 17 percent, according to the report.

In the schools that were part of the “Forgotten Fourth,” the student population also decreased in the last decade, as parents chose to remove their children from those schools, the report says. While the New York City public school population decreased by only 4 percent during that period, the population of elementary schools in the “Forgotten Fourth” declined by 31 percent; middle schools by 50 percent; and high schools by 62 percent.

The report did not recommend specific ways to fix the system, except to issue an urgent call that students and families “deserve bold leadership and action now.”

A New York City Department of Education spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal in an e-mail that the department was “taking a proactive approach to address our low-performing schools, engaging closely with each individual school to identify its needs and tailor interventions and supports that will lead to steady and sustainable improvement.”

You can read the full report here: The_Forgotten_Fourth_Report.pdf .

Source: The Forgotten Fourth: Across New York City, one-fourth of all schools are failing 9 out of 10 children.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.