Bronx school grades soar but Columbus in trouble

Public schools in the east Bronx earned high marks for 2008-2009, the city Department of Education announced in November. But some elected officials don’t buy DOE Chancellor Joel Klein’s progress reports.

Renaissance High School at the Lehman High School Campus plus Pelham Preparatory Academy and Astor Collegiate High School at the Columbus High School Campus earned A’s. Truman High School in Co-op City, Global Enterprise High School at the Columbus campus and Bronx High School for the Visual Arts in Van Nest earned B’s.

Lehman High School is under investigation; its DOE progress report is pending. Columbus High School earned a D and is in trouble, School District 11 Community Education Council president Monica Major said. Columbus earned a C last year. The DOE has yet to decide Columbus’ fate, spokesman Will Havemann said.

The DOE awards progress report grades to schools based on student test results, graduation and attendance rates and student and parent surveys. Schools are rewarded or punished based on the grades. Some are split into smaller schools and/or closed down.

“We continue to see more high school students making progress toward graduation,” 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.”

East Bronx elementary schools did well. P.S. 71 in Pelham Bay and P.S. 72 in Throggs Neck earned A’s, as did P.S. 14 and P.S. 304. P.S. 83 in Morris Park, P.S. 89 on Mace Avenue and P.S. 96 on Waring Avenue earned A’s. But P.S. 97 in Pelham Gardens earned a C.

Councilman James Vacca encouraged parents to consider the progress reports one assessment among many. Parents should examine how each school earned its DOE grade, Vacca said. Many students at Columbus and Lehman are new to the United States. Renaissance earned an A but has fewer than 500 students; Lehman has more than 3,000. Parents should ask questions that the grades don’t answer, Vacca said. The councilman wouldn’t guess whether or not the DOE would close Columbus down. Only time will tell.

“I think there should be change at Columbus,” Vacca said. “Everyone agrees that we need to do better there.”

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto questioned Klein’s rubric. Letter grades are too simplistic, Benedetto said. How does one measure the influence of a great teacher?

“I put no trust in [the DOE grades],” Benedetto stated.

Vacca also harbors doubts. Members of the City Council education committee were told that 87 percent of elementary and middle schools in the city earned A’s and B’s, he said.

“My remark was, ‘If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you,’” Vacca declared.

East Bronx middle schools did somewhat less well. For example, M.S. 101 earned a C.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or

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