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Reading scores: Receiving schools not much better than those District proposes to close

By Paul Socolar on Feb 7, 2013 04:33 PM

A Notebook analysis of reading proficiency rates at schools affected by the District’s closing plan found that, overall, the schools assigned to receive students displaced by closings are similarly low-performing when compared to the schools targeted for closing.

Some proponents of school closings have argued that closings are a way to shift students into higher-performing schools, but this analysis does not support that view.

Among the receiving schools identified by the District in the closings plan, the median reading proficiency rate is 32 percent. Among the schools that are closing, the proficiency rate is almost identical at 31 percent. Both groups of schools, on balance, are significantly below the districtwide reading proficiency rate of 45 percent.

Reading proficiency rates are just one measure of a school’s academic performance. We chose this benchmark because of the role that literacy plays in a student's future success. 

But in the District’s recommendations, more than a third of the 62 pairings involve sending students to a school where reading proficiency rates are at least five points lower than the school targeted for closing. In 10 cases, closing schools have been paired with a receiving school whose reading proficiency rate is 10 points lower.

The data show that some of the receiving schools are higher performing, with reading proficiency rates coming in at five or more points higher in 29 percent of the pairings of closing and receiving schools.

Proficiency rates at receiving schools vary widely. Several of the high schools slated to receive displaced students have reading proficiency rates below 20 percent. Two of the designated receiving schools for closings in West Philadelphia -- High School of the Future and Middle Years Alternative -- have admissions criteria and reading proficiency rates of 61 percent and 71 percent, respectively.


Data compiled by Charlotte Pope.

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Comments (21)

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on February 7, 2013 3:33 pm
Is it possible to see/add the utilization percentage of each school alongside their reading proficiency rates? Thanks, if you can add this.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 7, 2013 4:49 pm
all this shows is that they didn't close enough schools. they rearranged the deck chairs on the titanic. they need new high schools and they need to require each high school to have an application process, like nyc. that way there would be good high schools in every neighborhood instead of bad neighborhood high schools.
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 6:26 pm
Where do the kids nobody wants go?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on February 7, 2013 10:13 pm
All this shows is how atrocious the reading level is through out the city. It the result of no family structure. No home reading and a mind boggling lack of vocabulary. Does anyone think if the kids from the closed schools were sent to say Lower Merion or Germantown Academy their scores would improve?? The real scandal is how did these kids get to High School in he first place. My classes are full of high school seniors reading at less than a 5th grade level. Yet the district pretends this not a problem. The only schools in the district with grade level reading students are special admit schools and the teachers in those institutions do not accomplish this miracle with rigor like Hite would like you to believe. They accomplish it by making sure 95% of the Philadelphia High School population never sees the inside of their school. If I had that screening tool I would be a rigorous genius like any Demonstration teacher at say Masterman who is now tasked with teaching the elite few.
Submitted by g (not verified) on February 8, 2013 6:36 am
You are so right!
Submitted by High School Teacher (not verified) on February 9, 2013 6:56 am
Truer words were never spoken. People wonder why teachers oppose salary increases based on test scores! With that system, Masterman and Central teachers will be paid fabulous sums, while those of us struggling to help the general population students will get a pittance with maybe a memo of how we aren't doing a good job.
Submitted by Tara (not verified) on February 9, 2013 9:38 am
Don't forget how this will affect teacher evaluations. It's blatantly unfair to evaluate teachers using this new system, especially when some schools have such strict entrance requirements. I don't want to pit teacher against teacher. There has to be a more effective method.
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 9, 2013 12:25 pm
there would be few kids that nobody wants. there would be different types of schools for different kids. it would finally acknowledge that the every school for every child model is a myth. doing it this way would allow schools to develop better teacher evaluation tools. you could also set pay scales to match the degree of teaching difficulty. it makes sense to have entrance requirements for every school. it would allow the students and their families to understand from the door what the cultural norms of the school are. if you don't comply, you can't stay. the district will learn what the charters already know. students who don't want to be ata school will only detract from the education of others. if forces the student to make a decision. it will also reduce the number of seniors reading on the 5th grade level. this is the only way to get control of the 95%.
Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on February 9, 2013 2:59 pm
The School District is already heavily tracked at the high school level. Yes, this will acknowledge the obvious. But, it will not change the reading level of high school students. Neighborhood schools will be forced to take anyone - just like now - and be told they are "underperforming."
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:04 pm
stay with me here, THERE WILL BE NO NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS!!!!!!!!! They haven't worked in a long time and it's unlikely that they ever will again. in a 100% choice environment, every 8th grader would have to apply somewhere. and every student in every school would have to be accepted in that school. that way everyone wins. students and there families would have the freedom to choose. schools could be more demanding of those who enroll, because they will make the requirements crystal clear at the time of enrollment. I know your district-restricted thinking has you ready to ask the standard question, what about the kids that nobody wants? under this method there would be far less of them. if school is serious everywhere, there's nowhere to hide. for those who do find themselves unwanted, what a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the error of their ways, thereby salvaging a portion of them. for the rest, well they're the losers. nothing can completely eliminate them. but we will know that we've given them every opportunity to receive an education.
Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 6:31 pm
They're closing Vaux and sending the kids to Ben Franklin, which has half the proficiency rate. It's almost like there are politics involved. Shock! Shock, I say!
Submitted by reformer (not verified) on February 10, 2013 7:43 am
not true. while franklin's scores are not good, the scores from vaux are worse. Sad but true.
Submitted by MichelleO (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:08 pm
Wake-up. School performance has nothing to do with this. This is really about poising themselves for the new PFT contract and the destruction of the union. The consolidation plan was just an elaborate throwing of the darts against the list of all of the schools with certain political schools off limits. They are attempting to balance their budget on the backs of our most needy but politically voiceless students while they are doing their best to keep up the status quo at administration headquarters. A few years ago Palu Vallas moved them into 440 N. Broad. Ever since then, the folks that work there see themselves as these Fortune 500 Corporation. They live in a make-pretend world of meetings and self importance. They can't see that they are a bankrupt school district that should be selling that overpriced glamorous behemoth and moving to older less pretentious more humble quarters. For all of this time, they have been slashing union jobs and slashing student programs and support but the core group of political patronage non union has gone on virtually untouched and unmotivated to change. Their idea of change is to change what is outside of 440 while they continue to run inefficiently and stupid as always. Somebody needs to get in there and clean house!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2013 8:32 pm
Can't we start with basics needs, like parents' working cell phone numbers?
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on February 9, 2013 4:10 pm
How about kids having food at home? How about having heat in 20 degree temperatures?
Submitted by SOS 60 on February 8, 2013 9:40 am
Thank you, Notebook. The overall averages and the school by school detail is important both to the overall resistance effort and to parents in positions having to make choices.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 10:03 am
Since when is closing schools about tast scores?
Submitted by SOS 60 on February 8, 2013 10:10 am
Thank you, Notebook. The overall analysis as well as the detailed school by school analysis will be helpful to the resistance effort as well as for parents who must make choices.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 10:10 am
AGREED MichelleO >>> for a detailed look at who is behind this read;
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 8, 2013 10:43 am
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and other big privatizers. WHY am I not surprised?
Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on February 10, 2013 10:46 am
Just one correction to a statement made at the end of this post: Middle Years Alternative, unlike the other magnet middle schools, is NOT a special admit school, which the phrase "admissions criteria" suggests. The only criteria for admission to MYA are an awareness that the school exists and the motivation to place your child in the pool for open seats. We are not, and cannot be, selective about the academic or behavioral profiles of the kids we admit. Our student population was historically sort of self-selected to be from more education-oriented homes with high parental involvement, simply because those were the families who knew about MYA and made the effort to apply. But our demographics are changing just like everyone else's. In fact, MYA has been feeling the impact of school closures for years now. When Sulzberger High School closed five years ago, and we moved into their building, we absorbed their last 8th grade class, and with the closure of Drew this year, our student population has increased by about 100. Despite that, we began the year with slightly lower enrollment than expected, and I'm still getting new kids in my 5th grade class six months into the school year! These mergers are not just a shifting around of bodies into empty seats. They can dramatically change a school's culture and climate overnight, and have an unavoidable impact on student achievement in the receiving school. There will definitely be changes in student proficiency, even at those receiving schools which currently have test scores on the high side.

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