School Grade Controversy

The newest school “report cards” are out, and a lot of folks aren’t happy.

Some school principals are saying that while the 2012-13 progress reports offer some valuable data for judging school performance, they don’t tell the whole story.

The way categories such as student progress, student performance, school environment, and closing the achievement gap are weighted into the final letter grade leave the impression that a particular school is performing better or worse than it really is, said several principals.

How the numbers are crunched really matters, they said.

This year, 60% of the overall letter grades came from the score on the student progress section – the amount of change, hopefully in a positive direction, schools made between this past year and previous years. Throggs Neck’s P.S. 304 principal Joe Nobile said he feels that the grading system – which in 2012-13 saw the high-performing 304 get an A in the student “performance” sub-section but a C in “progress” – is stacked against high-performing schools that have relatively few “high needs” students.

He said there is not much room for improvement or progress because 304 is ranked at or near the top in reading and math, he said, yet “performance” remains only 25% of the letter grade.

“When you are at a high-level like that, it is difficult to make progress because you’re close to the ceiling,” he said. “Schools that are at lower levels can make progress more easily.”

The way schools are rated is more complicated because adjustments are also made for the numbers of special education children, students with learning disabilities, and children who face economic challenges, he said.

“I am grateful that I have always gotten As and Bs,” he said, “but I don’t think it is fair.”

Lehman High School near Westchester Square saw improvements between 2011-12 and 2012-13 in performance, progress, and learning environment – which all rose from Fs to Ds.

But because the numerical scores used to determine the category letter grades changed, and the score-range used to create the overall grade did not change, the school’s overall grade dropped from a D to an F, said its principal Rose LoBianco.

The bright parts of Lehman’s latest progress report included an improved score on “Closing the Achievement Gap,” and a Quality Review rating that improved from “Developing” to “Proficient,” which is a step up. The Quality Review ranking measures if the instruction prepares students for colleges and careers, the school’s organization and management, and the quality of the learning environment.

“The overall letter grade is down, but in terms of each of the categories, the grades have gone up,” said LoBianco, adding that “We are seeing upward trends.”

Another bright spot in Lehman’s progress report was receiving a B in College and Career Readiness, as it had in the 2011-12 report card.

To look at your child’s school report card, go to, then click on Progress Reports, and go to the search function for the particular school by name or number..

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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