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Proposed Grade Truncation Scenario for Frederick Douglass Academy III’s (FDA III) Middle School Grades

Overview

■   Based on an extensive review of data and community feedback, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has determined that the middle school component of Frederick Douglass Academy III is unable to turnaround and cannot provide a high-quality education to its students. The DOE is proposing to truncate the middle school grades of Frederick Douglass Academy III (FDA III).

■   We are proposing this action because we think it’s the right thing for current and future students in this community .

■   The truncation would be gradual and happen over the next several years. The middle school grades would complete truncating in June 2013. FDA III will continue to serve grades nine through twelve.

■   The DOE does not plan to replace FDA III’s middle school because there are enough existing seats to accommodate middle school students in District 9.

■   We hope you share our view that we can—and must—do better for students. The DOE will continue to work closely with FDA III staff and families to ensure that all students receive the support they need to succeed in school.

Educational Impact Statement

Read the full description of the proposal here.

Sharing Your Concerns and Questions

The DOE is seeking your feedback on the proposal. We will record your comments and include them in our analysis of public feedback, which is presented to the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) prior to their vote on the proposal. Please submit any comments you have at:

Phone: 212-374-5159
E-mail: D09Proposals@schools.nyc.gov

Joint Public Hearing

Date: January 26, 2011
Time:
6:00 p.m.
Location:
FDA III / KAPPA / I.S. 219 New Venture School, 3630 Third Avenue, Bronx, NY 10456

Panel for Educational Policy Vote on the Proposal

Date: February 3, 2011
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Brooklyn Technical High School, 29 Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Archive: Read a transcript of the hearing


For more information, see the PEP website .

Summary

■   Frederick Douglass Academy III’s middle school has struggled over the past three years. In 2010, only 26% of middle school students were on grade level in math, and only 28% were on grade level in English. This is true even though the school is one of the few screened middle schools in District 9.

■   On its 2009-2010 Progress Report, FDA III’s middle school received a C overall, an F on the performance sub-section and a C on the Progress and Environment sub-sections.  [1]

■   Last winter, the Panel for Educational Policy voted to truncate the middle school grades at FDA III so that the school would no longer serve grades 6-12 but instead serve only grades 9-12. This decision was based on evidence that the school was unable to improve student performance significantly at the middle-school level. A lawsuit prevented the Department of Education (DOE) from following through with those plans.

■   FDA III staff and families have worked hard to improve the school. The DOE has also offered considerable assistance to FDA III, including extensive training for principals and teachers, assigning a new administrator to help oversee the middle school grades, and helping the school integrate the arts and technology into subject area lessons. Unfortunately, these efforts have not turned the school around.

■   During conversations with the FDA III community, we heard concerns about inconsistency throughout the middle school regarding classroom practices and limited training opportunities for teachers. Community members had positive feedback about teacher collaboration and teacher accessibility. However, we do not believe these positive aspects are enough to turn around FDA III’s middle school grades.

What would the proposal mean for current students?

If this proposal is approved, FDA III’s middle school grades would be truncated gradually over the next several years and would no longer admit new sixth grade students after the end of this school year. Current sixth and seventh grade students would stay at FDA III.

Below are the enrollment plans for current FDA III students, if the school is truncated:

■   Current sixth and seventh grade students would complete middle school at FDA III. After they complete eighth grade they would have priority to remain at FDA III for high school, if they choose.

■   Current eighth grade students will have priority to remain at FDA III for high school, if they choose, or they may apply to high schools throughout New York City through the Citywide High School Admissions Process.   

If FDA III’s middle school grades are truncated, the school next year would serve students in grades seven through twelve. Then, during the following school year, FDA III would serve students in grades eight through twelve. The truncation of FDA III’s middle school grades would be complete in June 2013, with FDA III becoming a school that serves grades nine through twelve.

Background

FDA III Middle School Has Struggled for Years

■   FDA III’s middle school has experienced consistently poor performance over the last several years. Many students remain below grade level in English Language Arts (ELA) and math.

■   FDA III’s middle school received a C last year on its Progress Report, a C on its 2008-2009 Progress Report, and a D on its 2007-2008 Progress Report. In addition, FDA III’s middle school received an F grade on the performance subsection of its most recent Report.

■   Last year, only 28% of students enrolled in grades six through eight were performing on grade level in ELA— putting FDA III in the bottom half of all middle schools in New York City in English. In 2008-2009 performance in English was also in the bottom 27% of middle schools in New York City.

■   Last year, only 26% of students enrolled in grades six through eight were performing on grade level in math — putting FDA III in the bottom quarter of all middle schools in New York City in math. In 2008-2009, performance in math was in the bottom third of middle schools in New York City.

■   With so few students performing at grade level, FDA III’s middle school students must make substantial progress to get back on track. Unfortunately, FDA III’s middle school ranks in bottom third of middle schools citywide in terms of learning growth in English and the bottom 10% of middle schools citywide in terms of learning growth in math. If such poor performance continues, FDA III’s middle school students will fall even further behind their peers in other schools.

■   In 2009-2010, student attendance in the middle school grades was 91%, slightly below the citywide of 92% average for middle schools.

■   By contrast, FDA III’s high school has performed relatively well in recent years, earning a B on its 2009-2010 Progress Report and an A on its 2008-2009 progress report. The high school had a four-year graduation rate of 79% in 2009, well above the citywide 63% average.

Demand for the School is Moderate

■   Of fifth-grade students applying for middle schools through the middle school choice process, 45% chose FDA III as one of their top three schools.

Despite Our Best Efforts, Performance at FDA III Middle School Remains Low

We recognize that Frederick Douglass Academy III staff members have worked hard to improve the school, but the school has not turned around. To help the school’s efforts to improve performance, the DOE has offered numerous supports to Frederick Douglass Academy III including:

Leadership Support:

■   Assigning a new assistant principal to the school to oversee instruction and organization of the middle school grades.
■   Extensive training for the principal and assistant principal on using standards-based interim assessments to identify student needs, setting goals, and how to gauge teachers’ progress.
■   Working with the principal to develop the school’s Comprehensive Education Plan and set school wide goals.
■   Connected administrators to other schools to learn best practices that could be replicated at FDA III.

Instructional Support:

■   Training for the principal and assistant principal on curriculum planning, the new state curriculum, effective goal setting, and quality teaching practices.
■   Teacher training on technology systems, curriculum and data management (FDA III teachers have attended the Lorraine Monroe Summer Institute for the past three years).
■   Implementing the DOE Silk Road Indigo pilot project for integrating the arts into social studies lessons.

Operational Support:

■   Helping FDA III work with other campus schools to ensure efficient and coordinated use of the building.
■   One-on-one training for staff on budgeting, human resources, recruiting and retaining talented teachers, building management, and operational compliance issues.

Student Support:

■   Helping FDA III establish partnerships with the Claremont Community Center, St. Barnabas Hospital, and Beacon after-school program.
■   Introducing after-school and Saturday academies for students performing below grade level.
■   Working with FDA III to create an attendance team to address attendance through home visits, teacher attendance referrals at grade meetings, provision of uniforms where needed, and use of incentives for excellent attendance.

We Know That We Can Do Better

Despite being a screened school and having a smaller percentage of English Language Learners (7%) and special education students (8%) compared to other District 9 schools, results at FDA III’s middle school are poor. Other schools serving similar students have achieved far better  results.

■   At Sunset Park Prep in Brooklyn, 10% of students are English language learners and 19% of students require special education services. At that school, 42% of students are on grade level in English and 65% are on grade level in math.

■   At M.S. 302 Luisa Dessus Cruz in the Bronx, 15% of students are English language learners and 11% of students require special education services. At that school, 67% of students are on grade level in math, and 30% are on grade level in English.

■   While all students are still not where we’d like them to be, these schools are getting far better results while serving a similar mix of students to FDA III.

Community Feedback

On October 19, 2010, Bronx High School Superintendent Elena Papaliberios held a School Leadership Team meeting and parent meeting at the school to discuss what is working at Frederick Douglas Academy III, what isn’t working, and how to work together to better serve students. Approximately a dozen parents of middle school students attended the parent meeting. While parents had positive feedback about the school’s parent coordinator and said teachers are very accessible to parents and students, they also had a number of concerns. Parents said:

■   There is inconsistency throughout the school regarding classroom practices and student accountability, despite implementation of new strategies to resolve these issues.

■   Students are not challenged to use higher-level problem solving skills.

Staff members shared similar concerns and also said the school lacks clear goals and sufficient professional development opportunities. They did have positive things to say about teacher collaboration. However, the positive school components are not enough to move FDA III’s middle school grades in the right direction.

Supporting Current and Future Students

We Remain Focused on Helping FDA III Students to Succeed

During the proposed truncation, the DOE will build on our past efforts to help the school by:

■   Providing teacher training around issues including curriculum planning, improving teaching practices, and tailoring instruction to individual student needs.

■   Fostering opportunities for teachers and administrators to connect with colleagues in other more successful schools, allowing them to learn from one another, improve teaching, and better support students.

■   Facilitating partnerships with community-based organizations to support youth development initiatives at the school.

What You Can Expect

In January, we will host a joint public hearing with the District 9 Community Education Council and the FDA III School Leadership Team, among others. As soon as the hearing has been scheduled, we will let you know and will also share with you the formal proposal to truncate FDA III’s middle school grades. During the hearing, community members, including parents and students, will be able to share their thoughts on the truncation proposal.

The proposal to truncate FDA III’s middle school grades will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which is composed of members appointed by Mayor Bloomberg and the five Borough Presidents, during a public meeting scheduled for the first week in February 2011 . During this meeting, the public will have another opportunity to comment on the proposal. If the PEP approves the proposal, FDA III will not accept new sixth grade students, starting next school year.


[1] Schools that serve grades 6-12 receive two Progress Reports annually, one for the middle school (grades six through eight) and one for the high school (grades nine through twelve).