Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Turnaround at Evander Childs: A NYC Small School Trick?

New York's Fund for Public Schools, which has raised substantial funds for NYC's reforms, has launched a new ad campaign called "Keep it Going New York City." One ad showcases the succesful creation of new small schools within large high schools. Watch this ad called "Evander Childs Turnaround" - the main idea here is that Evander Childs, a high school in the Bronx, was failing, dangerous, and a poor environment for learning. Enter Bloomberg/Klein, the Children First reforms, and five new small schools, and Evander is reborn - teachers say it's different, students say they like going to school there, and a principal beams that the graduation rate has increased from 30% to 80%. Evander certainly has received a lot of attention - Joel Klein visited the school to deliver his spring statement on small schools' superior graduation rates. A NY Times Editorial praised new small schools for increasing graduation rates. The final line of the ad: "The building may be the same, but the school is very different." Should we be cheering?

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.

(Note: 2004-2005 was the last year Evander Childs took new ninth graders; the 2005-2006 numbers for Evander thus represent 9th and 10th grade transfer students, I imagine - someone with more knowledge of this particular case can comment here.)

* 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.


ed notes online said...

Collect your thesis, do not pass GO.

ed notes online said...

How did the NY Times reporter miss this? It is the NY Times' agenda to support BloomKlein so "missing" this is not an accident.

On the Leo Casey Edwize stuff, the UFT is always contradicting itself. Weingarten goes to Washington (could be a movie) to claim a share of credit for the Broad prize by saying the city schools did so well because of the teachers while the data presented here shows the opposite. Will there be an article in the NY teacher on this? Or is the UFT using Edwize to say one thing while the PR dept says another so they can play both sides against the middle.

How do you do that enlarge the chart trick?

eduwonkette said...

If you click on it, it should open in a new window - let me know if it doesn't work and I'll play with it.

ed notes online said...

It does work. I want to do it on my blog but dont know how. I sent this post to Susan Ohanian who will include it in her daily list.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Wolf quotes liberally from this post in his 10/12 column in the New York Sun.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

A NYC HS Teacher

Bernardo said...

The latest study of the New Visions high schools claims that they don't cream kids with high 8th grade scores. But your posts say just the opposite. Who's right?

Neighborhood Friends of JREC said...

Eduwonkette - you are my hero. I just learned about your blog through the report card postings.

Re: Evander Childs -- I'm wondering if you are aware of the current proposal to demolish the Julia Richman Education Complex? It is an even better success story than Evander Childs -- a large failing high school building is reconstituted into 6 small schools that are succeeding; but in this case, they consciously tried to establish schools that served the same population as had been previously underserved in the building. Now that the schools are thriving and have turned around their reputation and relationship with the neighborhood, the DOE is supporting Hunter College's proposal to demolish the building and let Hunter take over the site. Please look at www.jrec.org for more information about the Complex and the fight to save it.