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Education Letter to the Editor

‘New Century’ Critique Draws Evaluator’s Response

December 04, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

My colleagues and I at Policy Studies Associates Inc. wish to respond to inaccuracies in David C. Bloomfield’s Nov. 14, 2007, letter to the editor regarding our evaluation of New York City’s New Century High Schools.

First, the percentage of Regents diplomas among New Century students and comparison students was about the same in the period studied. The difference arose because the New Century schools kept more students in school for four years than did comparison schools, thus achieving a lower dropout rate and a correspondingly higher rate of local diplomas.

Second, the data used to compute students’ high school progress are available to external researchers through the New York City Department of Education, so these trends can continue to be followed beyond this evaluation. As with most school systems, the education department also posts on its Web site graduation and dropout data for every high school.

Third, by measuring credit accumulation, Policy Studies Associates did not “game” the system; all high schools in New York City are working toward the same end of supporting students in earning academic credits and eventually diplomas. The report was candid about the distinctions between local diplomas and Regents diplomas, and between reducing dropout rates and providing a rigorous education.

Fourth, the percentages of English-language learners and students with disabilities were almost equivalent in New Century schools and in high schools citywide, averaging 2 percentage points less in New Century schools for each group.

And finally, our evaluation reported extensively on the characteristics of successful small high schools, which we summed up as personalized attention, supplementary supports for learning, and high quality in instructional systems. As we reported, the New Century schools have taken important steps in the right direction, although they haven’t yet arrived at their destination.

Elizabeth Reisner

Policy Studies Associates Inc.

Washington, D.C.

The writer is the principal investigator of the New Century High Schools evaluation.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2007 edition of Education Week