P.S. 8 Receives a “C” On Its Report Card

As discussed within our Open Thread post, Brooklyn Heights' very own school, P.S. 8, received a "C" on the first-ever NYC school rating "report card". As mentioned before, the criteria for grading the schools seems a little daft:

That is because unlike traditional methods of judging schools, this one involves a complex calculation that assigns the most weight to how individual students improve in a year’s time on standardized state tests. It also compares schools with similar populations, as judged by demographics and incoming students’ test scores, and assigns final grades based on a curve. More than 60 percent of the schools earned A’s or B’s.


The largest portion of a school’s grade, 55 percent, is based on the improvement of individual students on state standardized tests from one year to the next, a so-called growth model analysis. Thirty percent of the grade is based on overall student achievement on state tests. Fifteen percent is based on the school’s environment, measured by attendance figures and parent, teacher and student surveys.

So, what happens to a school where year-to-year the students essentially receive the same high grades on the standardized tests? According to the NY Times, Parents are abuzz. It looks like many highly-regarded A-level schools, such as Park Slope's P.S. 321, received nothing more than a "B".

Any parents with children in P.S. 8 care to comment? 

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  • PS8 parent

    I’ll chip in my .02 — The test scores are on 3rd & 5th grade tests (I think) and the PS8 population change is primarily in grades 2 and below. As zoned, BH kids pass through the upper grades and the demographic changes (and the new, young, fabulous teachers gain even more wisdom & experience) we’ll see scores reflect the change. Right now, more than 30% of children in grades 3-5 arrive on busses each day, and nearly all of the lower-grades’ students are within walking or bicycling distance (only the younger siblings of the older, non-zoned children are on busses). The change is there, it’s just gonna move on up through the grades over the next few years.
    Brooklyn Heights has serious concerns about Middle Schools, though. That’s where our kids will be in trouble if we don’t do something soon.

  • bklyn20

    FYI, there are a few of the new wave of students in the 3rd grade, too. (Yes, I am also a P.S.8 Parent) However, be careful of designating bus kids as disadvantaged or non-zoned. Kids from Joralemon to Atlantic can take the bus to school, and do. Many of the out-of-zone kids are from Fort Greene — zone boundaries were loosened during the magnet program, so kids from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, etc., can also be bussed in. The grant ended last year, I think.

    Those neighborhoods are increasingly advantaged and affluent the past few years. There will be fewer kids on the bus in coming years, but it’s not a determining factor for the scores. I think these other kids can take the bus, or else they are getting on and the driver isn’t checking where they live, just picking up at usual spots.

    I am trying to figure out why we didn’t get a “B”, though. Some of the few old teachers remaining are good, too — they probably perform better when they no longer work at a failing school.

  • max

    I agree that one should not blame the “C” on the fact that there are some youngsters from disadvantaged families that attend the school. That is borderline racist and just unfair. One should not blame the kids. I think it is important to try to understand why the school did not get at least a B, and then work on improving those things, which are obviously of some importance to the chancellor. I think that a defensive reaction, or rejection of the whole process, is not in the best interest of the children. We should put our pride aside and try to understand how we can improve the test scores and the other factors for the next go ’round.

  • ABC

    I don’t get how all the k-2nd graders are within walking distance. The Farragut Housing doesn’t have K-2nd graders? I know those kids come on the bus.

    There is a place for all kids in a neighborhood school and that includes poor kids.

  • bklyn20

    It is also important for kids to know children from other classes, ethic groups, races, religions…etc. Education is foremost, but learning about the world and people around them is also important.

  • Billy

    You know, if one is not from a particularly priviliged background, the most important thing is learning how to do well on tests. period. test results will land you the college slot and the job because daddums and mommums will not be there to ring up an old pal to get you in.
    Whether you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a CPA or an engineer, you gotta know how to do well on tests. Some times comfortable older folks forget about this and it is a huge diservice to the poorer kids. Rich kids have plenty of recourses. Poor kids do not. They need to know how to take tests and how to answer the questions.

  • anon

    I’m a PS 8 parent: It’s important to remember that test scores have risen tremendously in the last 4 years, since Seth Phillips took over as principal of what was then a failing school. The school has improved and will continue to improve; it currently forms a wonderful community of families and is a place where real learning–as opposed to teaching to the test–takes place.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    anon: you’ve gotta get a new nic. There’s another “anon” on this board (see first comment under 11/7 Open Thread, as well as some later ones on that same thread) who, unlike you, is a nasty, chip-on-the-shoulder type. There’s already an “annon”; maybe you could be “anonn”? Then, again, you could come up with your own, original nic.

  • T.K. Small

    Relating to what Claude just said, as a matter of Internet etiquette, I think that people should be encouraged to use their real names or more individualized handles. Over the years I have noticed that the anonymity of the Internet seems to remove all “circuit breakers” and results in statements that most people would not even utter as part of a polite conversation.

    This idea is still in the development phase and I am not exactly certain about what it will take to “encourage” people to take responsibility for their words. Perhaps for people who actually use their real names Homer could buy them a beer.

  • nabeguy

    Billy, you point up a rather sad aspect of the higher education system and it’s emphasis on test scores. My understanding however, is that in recent years, the trend has been to look more at the extracurricular lives of students and not just at their scores, since they’ve caught on to the fact that students can learn to take tests without ever really absorbing the material.

  • ABC

    I think the PS8 test scores last year dipped a little after several years of gains. That was a big reason for the C. Next year, they’ll probably rise and also the DOE will start folding 5 years worth of data into these reports, not simple year-over-year. That will be a better tell.

    I’ve already said this, but I think it’s a pretty good – not perfect – system by which to reward or NOT reward schools and teachers. Not such a great way for a parent to pick a school for his/her child.

    I am kind of loving all these administrators calling the grades “reductive” and “depressing”. As every former and current student is saying right back to them, WE KNOW! A single letter grade is NEVER an accurate snapshot of a student (or a school). Maybe it’s a good lesson for these teachers afterall.

  • lisav

    As a neighbor and a teacher at another school, I am pleased with the progress of PS 8. I get to see first hand that the children, parents and teachers are engaged in the learning process at this school. The high involvement of parents and the dedication of the principal is evident. This school just hired a full-time librarian who will be essential in supporting a life long love of reading, improved literacy, research skills and information literacy. That action alone says more to me than a letter grade from the city.

  • ndargan

    PS. 8 is doing better…Because that was its intention…and before Seth fails he will do whatever he needs to do to fix the numbers and make it look as if the upper grades (majority minority) are the reason for a less than perfect score.

    Its seems his interest has turned from helping any and all children to just a selected few.

  • LuzQ

    I am moving to BH and the school that 2 of my children are zoned for is PS8. They will be in K & 5th in the school year 2008-2009. I have read each single comment above & it is scaring me. Right now my middle daughter attends Mott Hall School in NYC and I don’t know if it will be to her benefit to be close to home or just make her take the subway at 6:15 every am. Aren’t there any public schools for 4, 10 and 14 year olds around there that are really good? I definitively can’t afford the private school but don’t want to compromise their education.