NEW ROCHELLE, NY — This article is Part 3 of 8 in a series on the June 23rd meeting of the New Rochelle Board of Education where administrators and board members discussed a plan to move the Alternative High School from St. Gabes High School to the Family Life Center at Bethesda Baptist Church. There were four subsequent board meetings – two in executive session and two in public session. This series is focused on what took place on June 23rd, an attempt to deceive the board and the public by cherry-picking or withholding information in order to “sell” Bethesda to a skeptical school board.
Much was made of offering Campus students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses at the high school.
Marrero made the dubious claims that “many (Campus) students are Advanced Placement-caliber students” despite the fact that one of the primary qualifications for admission at the Campus School is failing courses in 9th grade. When pressed on this claim, Feijoo admitted she did not know what students thought about AP courses.
What was meant to be seen as a major breakthrough — aligning the Bell Schedule at the Campus School and New Rochelle High School — supposedly created the heretofore denied option for Campus students to take AP courses at the high school. There has never been anything that prevented Campus students from taking AP courses nor does that have anything to do with being 5 minutes or 8 minutes away by school van.
When Board Member Lianne Merchant asked how Campus students would get to the high school in the allotted 4 minute transition time, Marrero said it was a 23 minute walk between Bethesda and the High School then claimed that the amount of instructional time lost would be “minimal to non-existence (sic)”. Classes at New Rochelle High School are 42 minutes so students could be expected to miss at least 19 of those 42 minutes or about 45% of each class which would be problematic for any student but more so for students who are already struggling academically.
Asked about the interest in AP courses at the Campus School, Schwach said “at this time we do not have any students interested in AP courses.” Marrero claimed without foundation, “if offered, many will take a stab at it”. He characterized his baseless assertion as “another pro for the shift”. Feijoo supported Marrero’s assertion but later admitted she did not know what Campus students thought about AP courses, did not anticipate students will opt for AP classes in September but inexplicably added that she was looking at “supervision if they are walking” or possibly the idea of “regular transportation possibly a minivan“ to attend AP classes she had just said they would not attend.
Moselhi who has no background, training, degree or certification in education, and no experience teaching or working with Campus students, claimed the move to Bethesda was an opportunity to offer Campus students — who she claims are not “limited cognitively” — a “larger diversified educational experience.” Some students at the Campus School are limited cognitively. More to the point, even for those students who are not limited cognitively they may have one or more of the 13 classifications of disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act such as Emotional Disturbance, Intellectual Disability, Orthopedic Impairment, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Hearing Impairment or some other disability that would prevent them from succeeding in an AP course.
Laurence Kim Peek, the Utah man who served as the inspiration for the character Raymond Babbitt in the Academy-Award winning movie Rain Man, could memorize an entire book in an hour by scanning the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye or recite any Shakespeare play verbatim or count cards. He had incredible cognitive skills. At the same time, he could not button his shirt, do basic math and had an IQ of 87.
Cognitive ability is not the sole measure of a student’s potential for academic success.
Not stated during the meeting, the concern over putting more students into AP courses generally and, in particular, more students from the Campus School into AP courses is not driven by altruism but rather the New York State Accountability System under the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA is a federal law which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015.
As was discussed at the same board meeting, Albert Leonard Middle School is a TSI school based on low performance among the Black/African-American cohort. If a district has one or more schools that are TSI (or CSI), the district is considered a Target District. As a result, the City School District of New Rochelle already has one Targeted Support and Improvement School. There is palpable concern that more schools in the District will be flagged as TSI creating a hole it will be difficult to climb out of for years.
To that extent, placing a student in an Advanced Placement class produces a favorable outcome for the district regardless of whether the student even attempts to take the AP Exam let alone scores high enough to earn college credits, the ostensible purpose of AP courses.
The ESSA formulas are complex ways to rate schools on academic performance; a simple version is that a high school is measured based on six measures:
- Composite Performance: Annual student performance in English language arts, math, science, and social studies
- Academic Progress: Progress of students on state assessments in relation to long-term goals and Measures of Interim Progress
- English Language Proficiency: Percentage of students meeting individual progress targets on the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test
- Chronic Absenteeism: Percent of students who are absent 10% or more instructional days.
- Graduation Rate: Graduation rates of students four, five, and six years after first entering grade 9, based on graduation rate cohorts that are lagged one year.
- College, Career, and Civic Readiness: Percentage of students who are leaving high school prepared for college, career, and civic readiness as measure by diploma, credentials, advanced course credits and assessment results, career and technical education certifications and other similar measures.
- Out-of-School Suspensions will become an indicator for accountability purposes for the 2020-21 school year.
Pushing more students into AP courses will boost scores for the College, Career, and Civic Readiness measure; it is based on diplomas, credentials, advanced course credits and enrollment, certifications, and indicators such as biliteracy to determine how a school is preparing its students to be ready for college, a career, and civic engagement upon graduation.
A student earning a Regents Diploma is weighted as 1.0; the same student who earns a Regents Diploma which includes high school credit earned through participation in an Advanced Placement course is weighted as 1.5.
Simply completing the coursework with a passing grade yields a meaningful ratings benefit to the District — increasing the value of the students ESSA/CCCR score by 50% — which explains the obsession among school district leadership to jam as many students as possible into AP classes. While they cannot control results on AP Exams they can control the only outcome that matters to them — juking the ESSA stats by passing students regardless of actual performance.
In short, the AP “Gold Rush” is a variation on the sort of grade-fixing that led to the Apex Grade-Inflation Scandal.
Asked by Dr. Marrero how many students expressed interest in take Advanced Places at the high school, Schwach replied “None”. Teachers at the Campus School told Talk of the Sound that over the past three decades, no student was denied the opportunity to take a class including an AP class at the high school for the simple reason that no student expressed an interest to do so. This makes sense considering the entire point of the Campus School is to provide students an Alternative to what is the second largest high school in New York State.
The Alternative Campus High School, according to District records, is a high school attended by students from all over New Rochelle. Students are almost entirely Black or Hispanic (92%), most are from low-income households (80% are eligible for Free/Reduced meals) and are about three times more likely (30% at Campus v. 11% nationally have IEPs or 504s) to either be classified as Special Education students (IEP) or entitled to classroom accommodations (504).
The School services approximately 80 students and is staffed by 15 teachers/staff members. The School provides regular classroom programs for 10th through 12th grade students who were unsuccessful in their course curriculum in the 9th grade with specialized programs designed to assist them with their individual challenges. Students can also transfer to this high school after the 10th grade.
While anything is possible, teachers and staff at the Campus School view it as unlikely that there are large numbers (or any) students that are equipped to succeed in AP courses at New Rochelle High School.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ESSA
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