This is what school reform looks like in New York City after ten years of mayoral control.

In nearly 200 of the city’s 1,500 schools, at least 90 percent of the students are below the poverty line.

Four out of five of these schools have disproportionate concentrations of students who are limited English proficient or special education.

Only 31 percent of the students in these high-needs schools passed the state reading test, as compared to 47 percent citywide.

Only 45 percent of the students in these high-needs schools passed the state math tests, compared to 60 percent citywide.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott responded: “I know schools that have a variety of percentages of students, through over-the-counter or special ed or English language learners, who are knocking the socks off the ball.”

According to the NY1 story, the chancellor is referring to 21 of the high-needs schools that beat the odds. That’s 6 percent.

Next time you hear someone from the New York City Department of Education boasting about the “miracle” of mayoral control, think about these children.

Next time they tell you that “poverty is not destiny,” ask them about these schools and what the DOE did to change the odds.

After ten years of mayoral control, who will be held accountable for the system’s inability or unwillingness to meet the needs of these students?

A reader sent this analysis of the city’s data:

A recent story in NY1 examined New York City schools where 90% of the students are below the poverty line. NYC School Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, was quoted as saying that there are schools “who are knocking the socks off the ball.”
We took a careful look at the 2010-11 New York City data on elementary and middle schools and identified 153 schools where 90+% of students were eligible for free lunch. Of those schools only 3 were in the top half of the city in Math and English as calculated by the New York City progress report. PS 134 and PS 130 in Brooklyn and PS 002 in Manhattan were in the top half of students scoring at or above grade level in Math and English. In other words less than 2% of high poverty schools beat the city average and, unfortunately, not by much. In English for example the highest school was at the 65th percentile.

School ELA % Level 3 or 4 City Percent of Range
PS 134 64.4%
PS 002 52.1%
PS 130 51.6%

Digging deeper we noticed that all of these 3 schools have higher levels of student movement out of the school (ranging from 20-12% of the student population) than most elementary schools. This raises questions about how the high scores are generated. Additionally, one is not making AYP for English Language Learners.

New York City’s own data shows that schools with high concentrations of poor students are not knocking the socks off of any balls. Perhaps the Chancellor should stop spending time inventing new idioms (one knocks the cover off of balls and socks off of people, although one can sock a ball over the fence) and should start paying attention to his own data. Making up numbers and success stories will not improve schools for kids. Figuring out the supports and services that would help high poverty schools might.