High school report cards won’t be covered in “A’s,” officials say

Department of Education officials are tamping down expectations before next month’s release of the annual high school report cards.

Testifying at a hearing before the City Council’s Education Committee, the DOE’s chief accountability officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said today that the reports will not show the preponderance of A’s that dominated the elementary and middle school reports released in September.

“You’re not going to see the big changes in the high school level that you saw at the elementary level,” Suransky said. “We didn’t see dramatic gains in the same way.”

That could be a good thing for the department, which saw its main accountability measure widely criticized when it announced that 84 percent of elementary-and middle-schools had earned an A.

Suransky explained that the elementary-and-middle-school report cards reflect year-to-year improvement on state standardized tests, so that when students’ scores on the math and English exams rose, so too did the number of high marks given to schools. High school report cards focus on schools’ graduation rates, credit accumulation rates, and Regents-passing rates, which did not show the same level of improvement, he said.

In 2008, 40 percent of the city’s high schools earned an A.

Councilman Robert Jackson, who chairs the education committee, aimed his criticism at the elementary-and-middle-school report cards.

“In essence, you must admit the standard that you set is extremely low,” Jackson said.

“In hindsight, if we could have predicted the future, we would have set the cut scores differently,” Suransky said.