New York City released elementary school test scores for the 2018-19 school year on Thursday, August 22, 2019.
In the past, I’ve listed the Top 10 Schools by Test Scores for 2017, and the Top 25 Schools by Test Scores for 2018.
While there is some juggling for placement every year, the top-scoring schools tend to remain within striking distance of each other year. Keep in mind that a rise or drop within the top 10 or the top 25 can be as simple as three children’s performance on three questions.
This year, instead of posting a familiar list with only a few alterations, I thought I’d focus on 10 schools that posted substantial increases (a minimum of 20 places up the list) – and 10 that revealed substantial decreases (a minimum of 20 places down the list).
These are not the schools with the biggest rise or drop (some schools toward the bottom of the list made strides of as many as 100 rungs), but rather schools already in the top 100 of NYC schools which experienced a noticeable change in status.
1-5) Several Success Academies, including Bergen Beach, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Bensonhurst, and Bronx 4 all landed in NYC’s top 30 schools for the first time.
In addition, according to their press release: Success Academy Flatbush… made history, with 100% of its testing scholars passing both math and ELA state tests. Enrolling 337 students — 98% of them children of color, 82% qualifying for free or reduced price lunch — SA Flatbush opened in 2016 in former warehouse space provided by the Department of Education. About 13% of students have IEPs and 8% are experiencing homelessness.
6) Icahn Charter School 3 moved up a whopping 116 places.
In operation since 2013, this District 11 South Bronx school offers small group classes and Saturday tutoring for students in danger of falling behind. Over 60% of the population is Black, 30% Hispanic, and 81% qualify for Free Lunch. Their school motto is: Together We Can Achieve the Extraordinary.
7) PS 130 moved up 51 places.
While PS 130 is physically located in Queens District 26, it is zoned for and accepts children primarily from District 25, a point of contention for local residents. It’s the smallest school in the district with a student/teacher ratio of 12.1.
8) PS 134 moved up 40 places.
More than a quarter of the students at Brooklyn’s PS 134 are classified as English Language Learners, and they have two literary coaches on staff to help teachers, as well as a math coach. While some schools eschew tracking, PS 134 tests incoming Kindergarteners for a separate high’ achievers “Eagles” class.
9) PS 267 moved up 39 places.
Located in Manhattan’s District 2 in Midtown East with only 5% English Language Learners and 13% of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch, East Side Elementary Schoo is among the wealthiest on this list.
10) PS 89 moved up 39 places.
Also in District 2 and also moving up 39 places, the Financial District’s Liberty School boasts similar demographics to East Side Elementary School. A 2015 quality review by the Department of Education advised more differentiation for both high and low achieving students, chastising the school for offering identical assignments to all levels of learners.
1) PS 9 down 51 places.
One of the most coveted schools in Manhattan’s District 3 on the Upper West Side (to the point where parents reject nearby Gifted & Talented programs to attend), PS 9 was part of the recent rezoning, though their demographic of 22% Reduced or Free Lunch students wasn’t as heavily affected as those of neighboring schools.
2) PS 150 down 51 places.
Another wealthy school that dropped an identical number of places, Tribeca Learning Center is smaller than PS 9, with only one class per grade. In a school this size, a handful of families opting out of state testing can make a crucial difference.
3) PS 527 down 48 places.
The East Side School For Social Action offers Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classes, but also makes a point of spreading children with Special Needs throughout the school, rather than isolating them. PS 527 takes pride in focusing on character and community service. Like other Upper East Side schools, it remains majority white and high-income.
4) South Bronx Classical Charter School II down 42 places.
Unlike the three schools preceding it, Classical Charter II’s student body is 90% Free or Reduced Lunch, 50% Hispanic, 47% Black, with 14% English Language Learners. Latin begins in 3rd grade. They are part of a larger Classical Charter School network of the South Bronx.
5) PS 41 down 32 places.
The first of two PS 41s on this list (see below), this Bayside, Queens school emphasizes writing along with emotional well-being. PS 41 is over 50% Asian and notoriously overcrowded. Some classes are held in portable trailers outside the main building. PS 41 also hosts the Horizon Program, where children on the autism spectrum may attend mainstream classes alongside aides for part of the day.
6) PS 130 down 26 places.
While the PS 130 in Queens moved up, the one in Manhattan’s Chinatown moved down. At Hernando De Soto, almost 50% of the children don’t speak English at home, though over 80% continue to perform at grade level on the English Language Arts Exam. An impressive feat that suggests it isn’t so much that PS 130 is doing worse, as that other schools are doing better.
7) PS 41 down 25 places.
The other PS 41 is the most sought after school in Greenwich Village with a highly regarded, hands-on science program that includes a greenhouse on the roof. However, the school’s laid-back vibe, which includes calling teachers by their first names and other hallmarks of progressive education, may attract a higher number of families who opt-out of standardized testing.
8) Success Academy Bronx 3 down 24 places.
With demographics similar to other Success Academies and the same extended school day/year and curriculum, at #45 overall in New York state, SAB3 still outpaces all of the traditional public schools in Bronx’s District #8.
9) PS 172 down 24 places.
In 2018, the Beacon School For Excellence came in at #3. I wrote then:
PS 172, The Beacon School for Excellence, is a neighborhood school in Brooklyn. The majority of their students are Hispanic (76 percent), a fourth of whom don’t speak English at home. Eighty-seven percent are Free Lunch…. Every month the curriculum is revised based on the needs of the students. Each summer, the entire staff revises the curriculum after discussing what worked best and what needs improvement…. “There is at least one teacher in every grade who really loves math. We try to have some in each grade who have a love of science, and a love of history.”
Even with the drop, PS 172 is still the top school in Brooklyn’s District #15.
10) Brooklyn School of Inquiry down 22 places.
The only school on either list which screens for admission, BSI isn’t just a Gifted & Talented school, it’s a citywide Gifted & Talented school, which means 4-year-olds need to score at least in the 97th percentile – most likely the 99th – in order to enter the lottery for a spot (the majority who apply don’t get in).
And yet, at #38, its test scores put it behind multiple schools which don’t screen.
So what lessons can we draw from the above?
As in previous years, it never hurts to be a majority wealthy, majority English-speaking school. Or part of a well-oiled machine network with motivated, if low income, parents who made the choice to attend, rather than being randomly assigned.
2019’s test-scores did nothing to disabuse me of the notion that there is a trick to making any school a “good” school – in one simple step.
As I wrote back in 2017:
Thousands of students are getting outside help to prepare for the English and Math state tests, which are supposed to measure how much they’ve learned during the year. In this case, tutoring obscures school quality and skews NYC’s important attempts at true accountability….
Many of the parents who are getting their own children privately-tutored (including one celebrity public school advocate) are the same ones who proclaim that their local school is terrific – just look at the high-test scores!
Except how much is the school itself actually contributing to those test scores, and how much is coming from parents who have the means to pay for extra support?
Families entering a highly-ranked institution expecting that everything they need to excel will be provided in the classroom may end up sorely disappointed….
Your thoughts wanted, below!