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Dropout Nation Contributing Editor Michael Holzman, whose report for the Schott Foundation on how New York City’s Zip Code Education policies affect opportunities for poor and minority kids in the Big Apple, offers some new thoughts on data.

New York City’s Department of Education is the largest district in the country, responsible for educating one million students. How it meets that responsibility is of great concern to those children, their parents, the city’s residents and because of the sheer scale, the nation at large. It is, therefore, vital to have accurate, dependable data about the district’s performance.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its long-awaited Civil Rights Data Collection for 2009-2010 from 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts.  It is literally a collection:  each of those 7,000 districts submitted data on everything from school enrollment counts to statistics about bullying. This data collection is an important resource for all those interested in the condition of education in this country.  OCR has done an exemplary job of making the data accessible and easy to compare and analyze. (Editor’s Note: Whether or not the data accurately reflects what is going on, especially when it comes to young men of all races, or whether all kids are getting college-preparatory curricula, is a different matter entirely.)

 

But the data collection as a whole is only as accurate as the data sent in by the individual districts. And the data submitted by New York City is most curious.

For example, New York City reported that none of its 1,530 schools were either charter schools or alternative schools. This despite the fact that New York City is one of the leading players in expanding charters, and has an entire division — District 72 — devoted to educating students in alternative settings such as the Rykers Island jail. It also reported that none of its student received Free and Reduced-Price Lunch, a key measure of levels of poverty. Meanwhile New York City reported that eight-tenths of one percent of the children it serves were students disabilities. Even more odd, the district also reported that less than one percent of its students were classified as having Limited English Proficiency — even though a majority of its students are Latino and Asian.

The data points on suspension and expulsion reported by New York City to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights are even more curious. In 2009-2010, it reported that no students had been expelled. It also reported that none had been referred to law enforcement agencies. And that none of its students had been the subjects of school-related arrests. (Based on news reports and data from the city’s police department itself, this isn’t even close to reality.)

In other words, according to the New York City Department of Education, the district is one of unparalleled wealth among large districts, with no students living in poverty or near it.  The district, according to the data it submitted to the U. S. Department of Education, has completely resisted the charter school movement and has not experimented with alternative schools.  And its very large percentage of children living in homes where English is not spoken have nearly all acquired proficiency in English.

One of the strengths of the Civil Rights Data Collection is that it includes school-by-school data. New York City reports, for example, that:

  • Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, with an enrollment of 2,275, had no students eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch.
  • Canarsie High School, also in Brooklyn, with an enrollment of 825, also had no students eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch.  It reported an average teacher salary of $411,796.
  • DeWitt Clinton High School, in the Bronx, with 63 percent of its 4,435 students listed as Latino reported 3.3 percent as having Limited English Proficiency and none eligible for Free and Reduced-price Lunch.
  • Edward R. Murrow High School’s teachers are said to have an average salary of $252,843.

This is quite remarkable information. Perhaps someone in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office should look into it.