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Bloomy’s back to school battle

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As public school students in Queens and throughout the city waved goodbye to the summer and prepared to head back to school this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of his administration were busy touting what they said were increases in student and school performance and classroom seats.

Critics of the Bloomberg administration, however, said the mayor was inflating numbers to rally support for his school policies in an election year. Bloomberg will be challenged by the winner of the Democratic primary next week, city Comptroller Bill Thompson or City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), both of whom have criticized how Bloomberg has handled mayoral control of the city’s school system.

The city Department of Education released the 2009 progress reports on elementary, middle and K-8 schools Sept. 2, and Klein said 84 percent of city schools earned an A, up from 38 percent last year. City officials base the grades on school environment, school performance and student progress.

Queens districts fared well, with Districts 24, 25, 26 and 27 receiving nearly all A’s.

District 28 garnered eight B’s and District 29 had eight B’s and one C.

District 24 covers Glendale, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Long Island City; District 25 includes Flushing and Whitestone; and District 26 includes schools in Bayside, Little Neck, Flushing, Floral Park and Douglaston.

District 27 covers Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Far Rockaway, Jamaica, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. District 28 includes schools in Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Rego Park and Forest Hills. District 29 spans Cambria Heights, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans, Laurelton, Hollis, Queens Village and Jamaica.

“I’m thrilled that so many schools earned an A by meeting the ambitious standards we set last year, but we still have a lot more work to do,” Klein said. “These results mean 84 percent of our schools made great progress this year, not that 84 percent of our schools are perfect. We won’t be satisfied until we have 1,500 great schools.”

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) slammed the DOE’s grading system, calling it “overly reliant on test scores.”

“A fair test that students are not taught to game might reasonably account for part of the school grades formula,” Weprin said in a statement. “Instead, incessant test prep is rampant and the tests are getting easier.”

Bloomberg and school officials also praised the city for opening up 23 new school buildings this school year, including the Frank Sinatra School Building in Astoria and PS 128 in Middle Village. Though the city is counting the two as additional classrooms, the Frank Sinatra school is only being relocated from Long Island City to Astoria and Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson has said issues like this indicate Bloomberg and city officials have inflated the number of classroom seats.

Haimson said the city added more classroom seats during the last six years of Rudy Giuliani’s administration than all eight of Bloomberg’s.

But Bloomberg said his administration has long emphasized adding seats to city classrooms.

“Our commitment to constructing and modernizing schools is changing the landscape of our city and creating increased learning opportunities for our students citywide,” Bloomberg said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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