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Sunday, October 13, 2013

AISR Report Describes Disparate Treatment of Students In NYC

Research reveals late-enrolling New York City students disproportionately assigned to struggling high schools
Phil Gloudemans (401) 863-3552 or (401) 338-6385 (cell) envelope 
Norm Fruchter  (212) 328-9252 or (718) 499-1890 envelope
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 10, 2013) 
NEW YORK CITY–Each year between 2008 and 2011, more than 35,000 late-enrolling,
high-need students were disproportionately assigned by the New York City Department of 
Education (DOE) to struggling public high schools, essentially setting up the students and 
schools for failure, according to a new study from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute 
for School Reform (AISR) detailed in the AISR report “Over the Counter, Under the Radar.” These late enrollees missed participating in the school system’s almost universal high school
choice process the previous school year and are traditionally labeled as “over the counter”
(OTC) students. OTC students include many of the system’s highest-needs populations:
new immigrants; special-needs students; previously incarcerated teens; poor, transient, or
homeless youth; over-age students; and those with histories of behavioral incidents in previous
high schools. AISR’s study shows that these high-needs OTC students are disproportionately assigned to New York City public high schools with high percentages of low-performing students, English-language learners, and dropouts.
“Compelling evidence suggests that the DOE’s inequitable assignment of OTC students to 
struggling high schools reduces the opportunities for success for both the students and their schools,” said AISR Principal Associate Norm Fruchter, one of the study’s authors. “In contrast, some high schools are consistently assigned very small percentages of these students, thereby enhancing their capacity to maintain high performance results.” 
The study’s analysis of the 2011 OTC assignments shows that large, low-performing high schools had an average OTC assignment rate of 20 percent, compared to an OTC enrollment rate of 12 percent at better performing similarly large high schools. During the time period studied, high-performing schools, such as Midwood High School in Brooklyn, were consistently assigned very low numbers of OTC students (3 percent), while low-performing Jamaica High School in Queens had an OTC rate of 31 percent, significantly higher than the school system average.
Similarly, the AISR study found that OTC students are disproportionately assigned to schools targeted for closure or already undergoing the closure process. The researchers cite Christopher Columbus and John F. Kennedy High Schools in the Bronx, and Jamaica High School in Queens as prime examples. While Christopher Columbus was undergoing closure in 2011, OTC students made up 37 percent of that school’s student body, 31 percent of Jamaica’s, and 29 percent of Kennedy’s, compared with 14 percent for similarly sized high schools. “We reconfigured our academic and support programs to meet the needs of our very sizable annual percentage of OTC students,” said Christine Rowland, teacher and UFT Teacher Center Site Staff at Christopher Columbus. “But without sufficient resources, the burden on the school staff was enormous.”
This study is the first of its kind. “What surprised us is that our study is the first systematic look at OTC students and the high schools they are habitually assigned to,” said AISR Principal Research Associate Christina Mokhtar, study co-author. “OTC students compose more than 17 percent of the high school population every year and yet, until this study, nothing was known about the high school experience of OTC students because research had never focused on them.”
"This study backs up what teachers have been saying for years: The New York City Department of Education pushes the neediest students into a small number of schools, causing both the students and schools to fail," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. 
AISR’s recommendations to remedy these disparities and make the assignment of these high-need students more equitable include the following:
  • The DOE should commission a study of the demographics and academic performance of OTC students to identify high schools in which such students achieve significantly higher academic performance than system-wide averages, and then identify the exemplary practices of these “beat-the-odds” schools.
  • The DOE should ensure that all high schools employ these exemplary practices to help improve the academic outcomes of all OTC students.
  • Since the overall percentage of OTC students during the years of the AISR study was 17 percent, all New York City high schools should be assigned OTC students at an annual rate of between 12 and 20 percent of their respective student populations.
  • The DOE should develop specific criteria governing the decision rules for OTC assignments below and above 17 percent.
  • Schools targeted for closure or already undergoing the closure process should not be assigned any OTC students.
  • Persistently low-achieving high schools should not be assigned any OTC students until their respective performances improve sufficiently for removal from the state’s list of struggling schools.
“Implementing these recommendations would significantly reduce the disparities and inequities that OTC assignment policies create,” said Fruchter. “These recommendations would help the city’s high schools reconfigure their instructional resources and support programs to better meet the needs of a predictable rate of incoming OTC students.”   
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer focused on the study’s importance: “How New York City deals with high-needs students who enter our schools in the middle of the year – many of them homeless, living in poverty, recently incarcerated, or struggling to adjust to a new language or culture – is one of the most pressing challenges of our time,” said Stringer. “I am grateful that the Annenberg Institute for School Reform has chosen to shine a light on this issue and offer such thoughtful recommendations. This report should be required reading for anyone who cares about our children and our city.”

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