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The principal of Brooklyn Heights’ popular PS 8 spent the week calming parents’ nerves that the elementary school had slipped backwards now that the city handed the school an F in its annual report cards.
“PS 8 is not a failing school, far from it,” Principal Seth Phillips wrote in a letter to parents last Friday, three days before the city confirmed the failing grade.
“A solid, well-rounded education…goes beyond report cards and standardized testing,” Phillips said.
The report card system, unveiled last fall, grades student performance on tests year to year. So if a student received a 100 on the test last year but a 98 on the test this year, the school’s grade could suffer.
“Two years ago, we had five students who scored perfect scores in third grade. Unless those five students scored a perfect score last year, they were not considered achieving a year’s growth,” Phillips explained in his letter.
The progress grade measures each school’s “improvement” from year to year as compared to comparable schools.
“The formula for establishing peer groups is so confusing that I can honestly make no sense of it,” Phillips said. Last year, Phillips said he evaluated schools to create his own “peer group,” but could only find six “truly similar” schools comparable in size, ethnic and demographic makeup, English-as-a-second-language programs, and special education. The city says there are 40 similar schools, though it would not reveal their names.
Frustrated parents were buzzing about the news all week at the Hicks Street school.
“[The grade] upsets me because it’s a wonderful school, and my children are getting exactly what they — and I — want and need,” said parent Lisa Kopell, who has two children at PS 8. “They’re happy and they’re in a loving environment. I won’t let this news bother me at all.”
Todd Glass, who has a son in first grade, said parents are aghast.
“The people who come here everyday know that it’s not a failing school and that, if anything, this is a model for how to turn around a failing school,” Glass said. “The really unfortunate thing about this is the distraction it can cause [to the school’s daily functions].”
Celia Caro said the grades send the wrong message to kids, including her 6-year-old daughter, Colette.
“The way the Department of Education gives grades is questionable,” Caro said. “What kind of message is that to give children? If you don’t keep getting higher grades, you will fail? That’s such a discouraging message.”
A Department of Education spokesman said the agency stands behind its grades, despite a July visit by Chancellor Joel Klein, who praised PS 8 as a “success.”
Not anymore, apparently.
“Its scores [show] significant concerns about its learning environment,” Education spokesman David Cantor said in a statement. “Although some students performed well, PS 8 largely failed … last year.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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