Bronx

School Improvement Scenarios for M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa

Summary

■  M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa has struggled for years. In 2010, only 21% of students were on grade level in math, and only 16% were on grade level in English language arts (ELA)—putting M.S. 142 among the lowest-performing middle schools in the entire City.

■  M.S. 142 staff and families have worked hard to improve the school. The Department of Education (DOE) also provided considerable support to M.S. 142. In recent years, this has included: extensive teacher training; guidance around curriculum planning; and working with teachers to better support high-need students. Unfortunately, these efforts have not turned the school around. Unfortunately, these efforts have not turned the school around.

■  M.S. 142 earned an overall C grade on its 2009-2010 Progress Report, with D grades in both the Student Performance and School Environment sub-sections and a C grade for Student Progress. M.S. 142 also received a rating of “Undeveloped with Proficient Features” on its most recent Quality Review in 2009-2010.

■  Based on the school’s performance history and particularly its Quality Review score, the DOE is launching a comprehensive analysis of the school to determine what steps we should take to address its continued low performance. Possibilities for the school include:

  • Leadership change;
  • Phasing the school out over time and gradually replacing it with new school(s) (while supporting current students who would remain enrolled in M.S. 142);
  • Change in curriculum/program offerings;
  • Staff changes; and/or
  • Grade reconfiguration.

We understand that many M.S. 142 students, families, and staff members believe in the school’s potential, and we know that this is difficult news. At the same time, we hope you share our view that we can—and must—do better for students.

In the coming weeks, we will work with you to figure out how to help M.S. 142 students. We will talk to parents, students, and staff as well as people and organizations that work directly with M.S. 142. We are particularly interested to learn about things that may not be obvious on paper: What do you think is working well at the school? What is not working?

Based on that feedback and a thorough review of school data, we will propose an action plan that we believe will best benefit current and future students.

Please be assured that the DOE will continue to work closely with M.S. 142 staff and families to see that all students receive the support they need to succeed in school. We look forward to your feedback throughout this process. 

Sharing Your Concerns and Questions

The Department of Education is seeking your feedback. We will answer your questions and listen to your concerns as we develop a formal proposal for the school.

Parents, staff, and other community members may submit questions and comments at any time:

Izaak Orlansky
212-374-5159
D11Proposals@schools.nyc.gov

Background

M.S. 142 Has Struggled for Years

The overwhelming majority of M.S. 142 students remain below grade level in English language arts and mathematics.

■  During the 2009-2010 school year, only 16% of students were on grade level in English—putting M.S. 142 in the bottom 18% of middle schools in New York City and making it the lowest-performing middle school in District 11.

■  During the 2009-2010 school year, only 21% of students were on grade level in math—putting M.S. 142 in the bottom 12% of middle schools in the City and making it the second-lowest-performing middle school in District 11.

■  With such low levels of students performing on grade level, it is crucial for M.S. 142 students to make substantial progress to catch up. However, M.S. 142 is in the bottom 16% of schools citywide in terms of learning growth in both English and math. If those conditions persist, M.S. 142 students will only fall further behind their peers.

■  M.S. 142 earned an overall C grade on its 2009-2010 annual Progress Report, with D grades for School Environment and Student Performance and a C grade for Student Progress. M.S. 142 did earn an overall A grade on its 2008-2009 progress report, but received a D grade for School Environment that year. M.S. 142 received an overall C grade on its 2007-2008 Progress Report.

■  M.S. 142 was rated “Undeveloped with Proficient Features” on its most recent Quality Review, indicating serious deficiencies in the way that the school is organized to support student learning. During Quality Reviews, experienced educators visit schools over several days, observing classrooms and speaking with students, staff, and families.

■  Attendance is a bright spot at the school. The 2009-2010 attendance rate was 93% compared to the citywide middle school average of 92%.

■  Safety issues have been a concern at M.S. 142. On the 2009-2010 New York City School Survey more than one in three students—37%—reported feeling unsafe in the hallways, bathrooms, and locker rooms at school. Parents also expressed concern about their children’s safety at M.S. 142, with 23% indicating that they felt their children were unsafe at school. In addition, 70% of teachers reported that discipline and order are not maintained at M.S. 142.

Demand for the School is Declining, Suggesting Families Are Seeking Better Options

■  Between 2006-2007 and 2009-2010, the number of students enrolled at P.S. 142 decreased by 9%. [1]

Despite Our Best Efforts, Performance at M.S. 142 Remains Low

M.S. 142 staff have worked hard to improve the school, but the school has not yet turned around. The DOE also extended considerable support to M.S. 142, including:

■  Extensive teacher training around issues including curriculum planning, improving teaching practices, and individualizing teaching to meet each student’s needs.

■  Support for teaching teams focused on the needs of targeted student populations, such as English language learners, special education students, or students who are performing below grade level.

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

■  Support in recruiting talented teachers.

As we consider possible options for the future of M.S. 142, we will be analyzing past strategic improvement efforts at the school to help us identify what has been working and what has not. This information will guide our thinking about how best to support students and the community going forward.

We Know That We Can Do Better

M.S. 142 serves a high-need population: 15% of students require special education services and 5% are English language learners. But other schools serving similar students have achieved far better results. These include schools in M.S. 142’s peer group, representing the 40 most similar schools in New York City.

■  At J.H.S. 52 Inwood in Manhattan, which is in M.S. 142’s peer group, 12% of students require special education services and 34% of students are English language learners. At that school, 38% of students are on grade level in math and 26% are on grade level in English. While still not nearly where we would want them to be, they are getting better than results we are seeing at M.S. 142 while serving a similar mix of students.

■  At Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science, a Bronx school that is in the M.S. 142 peer group, 11% of students require special education services and 6% of students are English Language Learners. At that school, 27% of students are on grade level in English and 56% are on grade level in math. In addition, Hostos-Lincoln is in the top 23% of middle schools in terms of helping students make progress in math and in the top 37% in helping students make progress in English.

We Remain Focused on Helping M.S. 142 Students to Succeed

Please be assured that the DOE will work closely with M.S. 142 staff to ensure that students get the support they need—this year and in the future. In the immediate term, we will build on past efforts to support the school, including:

■  Helping the school better support its highest-need students, including English language learners, special education students, and students who are performing below grade-level.

■  Working to identify areas where professional development is needed and assisting the school in meeting those needs.

■  Helping to create and enhance relationships with community partners.

What You Can Expect

Over the coming weeks we will carefully review school data as well as your feedback. As we move forward through this process and begin to shape a plan for the school, we will be able to provide more specific details about how that proposal would impact students and the broader M.S. 142 community.

Regardless of the outcome, the DOE will work continuously with M.S. 142 staff and families to ensure that students receive the support they need and the excellent education they deserve.


[1] Audited enrollment and demand data is not available for the current school year. These figures reflect the most recent audited data that is available at this time, which is from the 2009-2010 school year, audited as of October 31, 2009.