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Bronx school grades soar

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Bronx high schools rushed to the top of the class, as 41 were awarded progress report A’s for 2008-2009, as opposed to 31 in 2007-2008, the city Department of Education announced in November.

South Bronx Prepatory in Mott Haven scored higher than 99 percent of city high schools and earned an A. The High School for Violin and Dance on Boston Road, Belmont Preparatory High School on Fordham Road, Marble Hill High School for International Studies and New World High School near the Bronx Zoo scored higher than 95 percent of city high schools.

The DOE awards progress report grades based on student test results, graduation and attendance rates and student and parent surveys. Schools, teachers and administrators are rewarded or punished based on the grades.

“We continue to see more high school students making progress toward graduation,” DOE Chancellor Joel Klein said. “[The school grades] continue to serve as a useful tool for parents and other stakeholders – especially for families of eighth graders who are deciding where to apply to high school.”

But some parents remain wary of the progress report grade system. In School District 10, which encompasses Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Norwood, Bedford Park and Fordham, 64 of 82 elementary, middle and high schools earned A’s. Only two elementary and middle schools didn’t earn A’s or B’s. Perhaps the grades are too good to be true, SD10 Community Education Council president Marvin Shelton said. Schools are graded in comparison to “peer” schools of similar makeup; many SD10 schools did well only in comparison to similarly challenged schools, Shelton explained.

Principals and teachers at top schools become eligible for DOE bonuses. But Shelton, like most parents, is more focused on how his children perform. The DOE first released progress report grades for 2006-2007. Shelton advised parents to study the progress report “school environment” grades, based on parent surveys.

Of 108 high schools in the Bronx, 38 percent earned A’s, 24 percent earned B’s, 18 percent earned C’s and 16 were listed as un-graded. Most un-graded schools were new schools, Havemann said. Only five schools earned D’s: Samuel Gompers Career and Technical Education High School, Columbus High School, New Day Academy in Morrisania and Monroe Academy for Business and Law in Soundview.

Lehman High School is under investigation; its grade is listed as pending. Only one high school in the city earned an F: Peace and Diversity Academy. Established in 2004, the school has moved several times. School District 11 Community Education Council president Monica Major described the grade as unfair.

“Look what happens when you move students around,” Major said. “Students need to settle in.”

SD11, which emcompasses Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Baychester, Olinville, Pelham Parkway and Morris Park, did well: 40 of 54 schools in the district earned A’s. Major is half-pleased, half-dubious. Only four Bronx high schools that earned B’s scored higher than 50 percent of city high schools.

“You take these grades with a grain of salt,” she said. “I always tell parents to visit the schools. Some of these grades are too high.”

Bronx Green Middle School on Wallace Avenue earned a D. Middle schools around the city are in trouble, Major said. She wants the DOE to establish gifted and talented programs at J.H.S. 144 in Baychester and J.H.S. 127 in Parkchester. 

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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