Press Release: The Hidden Truth: StudentsFirstNY Report Finds Massive Citywide Grade Inflation

SFNY Calls for an Independent Audit of NYC Public School Coursework

NEW YORK, NY -- A new report released by StudentsFirstNY reveals rampant grade inflation within New York City public schools. While the majority of students are failing state tests, they are passing their schools’ coursework. At schools where fewer than 10% of students pass state tests, 85% of students are passing school coursework. Put another way, at struggling schools where 9 out of 10 students are below grade level, their school coursework makes it look like 9 out of 10 students are meeting grade standards. This is a phenomenon that extends far beyond failing schools – there is grade inflation going on across the board in the NYC public school system.

StudentsFirstNY is releasing the report The Hidden Truth: Massive Grade Inflation Conceals Underperformance in NYC Schools as part of its testimony today for the City Council’s hearing on struggling schools and is calling on the City to bring in an independent auditor to assess whether school coursework is meeting grade-level standards.

“When your child brings home an ‘A’ from school, as a parent you should have confidence that your school is telling you the truth and that your child is really meeting grade-level standards,” said Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY. “There are scandalous levels of grade inflation going on across the board at New York City public schools and the de Blasio administration must address it. StudentsFirstNY is calling for an independent audit of school coursework to ensure New York City public schools are not lowering the bar and giving parents a false picture.”

“My son recently got a 94% on his 10th grade science quiz, which I later learned was testing him on 5th grade level material,” said Automotive High School Parent Evelyn Rodriguez. “The school is trying to fool us into thinking everything’s fine but I want my son held to the standards that are going to prepare him for life.”

“My son is in the second grade at P.S. 305 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and he’s getting good grades in school. There’s a big disconnect and I can’t trust my son’s grades because I know only 3% of kids in the building are passing state tests. I would rather know from the school now that there’s a problem, rather than waiting for state tests to tell me if there’s a problem,” said P.S. 305 Parent Nakeia Porter.

“No wonder some parents are upset that their children aren’t passing Common Core-aligned state tests – their children’s schools have misled them to believe they are properly preparing the children and it’s easier to blame the tests for telling the truth than to believe the school where you send your child each day is misleading you,” said Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of NYCAN.

“The de Blasio administration must think they can lull parents into complacency by having schools give kids good grades even though the students are underprepared,” said Tenicka Boyd, a public school parent and Director of Organizing for StudentsFirstNY. “Parents want an honest assessment of where their children are so they can take the necessary steps to help their child improve."

"StudentsFirstNY's report underscores how valuable the information is that we get from state test results," said Steve Sigmund, Executive Director of High Achievement New York. "Parents deserve to know whether their children are meeting standards and school coursework should be aligned to those standards."

Other findings from the SFNY analysis include:

  • School Quality Reports not supported by fact. Of the 100 schools labeled “Not Meeting Targets” on the 2014 School Quality Reports, 44 are “Meeting” or “Exceeding” student achievement targets on the 2015 reports. It’s unclear what is behind these improvements, as many of these 44 schools did poorly on this year’s state tests.
  • Failing schools receive high marks. Of the nearly 200 schools with fewer than 10% of students passing this year’s state tests in ELA or math, the vast majority received favorable ratings on their School Quality Reports.
  • Quality Review Ratings: The majority of failing schools received high marks on their most recent Quality Review. 30% of failing schools are reported to have effective teaching and learning when students are not performing at grade level.
  • Bottom line: It is clear that grade inflation is rampant citywide. The majority of schools boast ELA coursework pass rates of above 80% - regardless of students’ pass rates on the 2015 NYS ELA exams.

To read StudentsFirstNY report The Hidden Truth: Massive Grade Inflation Conceals Underperformance, click here.

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