The answer is a resounding "no." The building is the same, but the students definitely aren't. As the tables below demonstrate, the new students were much higher performing before they even entered the building. In the first table, I use the NYC School Report cards to compare incoming 9th graders in 2004-2005 (the last year that Evander took 9th graders) with the 9th graders at the other small schoools. On every dimension, the Evander incoming 9th graders are lagging behind academically - they are more likely to be in special education or to be classified as ELL, they are much more likely to be overage for their grade (i.e. they had been retained before), their attendance rates in junior high school were much lower, and they were much less likely to be proficient in reading and math. Of particular note is the praise showered on Bronx Lab at the end of the 2004-2005 school year - see this NY Times article - but 46.6% of their kids were proficient in reading and 52.7% in math when they walked in the door, while Evander's entering students passed at rates of only 11.1% in reading and 12.8% in math. How did the reporter miss this? How did the NYT editorial board miss these numbers before writing a glowing endorsement? (See Leo Casey's analysis at EdWize that shows similar comparisons for other schools in NYC- the pattern is very similar.)
Comparing these schools is either incredibly foolish or incredibly dishonest - and I don't think the folks running NYC schools are foolish. Click below to enlarge these tables.
* I am not sure what to make of these free lunch figures. Given the disadvantage profile suggested by the performance of kids at Evander (especially that so many of them are over-age for grade and ELL), it is difficult to believe that they don't qualify for free lunch in equal numbers as their peers at the small schools. Another interpretation is that their families are less involved, and thus less likely to turn in free lunch forms; alternatively, their feeder schools may be less organized to get these forms turned in. Other interpretations welcome.