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Liu plans to scrutinize school report card data

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City Comptroller John Liu has embarked on an initiative to audit the city Department of Education’s annual school progress reports in the wake of the department’s January decision to close 19 low-performing city schools.

The progress reports were used by the city DOE, along with graduation rates, to determine which city schools warranted closure.

“The DOE places extraordinary weight on the annual progress reports in making decisions, from school resources to even the school’s very existence,” Liu said in a statement.

Schools are rated by the city on an A to F scale in the progress reports, also known as report cards, and schools with grades below a C end up on the chopping block for possible shuttering.

The audit will independently analyze the integrity and reliability of the data contained provided through the progress reports, according to Liu’s statement, and whether the DOE takes proper measures to ensure the data is reliable, comparable and fairly reported.

“In an era where data has become the driving justification in such decisions, the real stakeholders — parents, teachers, students, community at large — must be assured and confident about the accuracy of these high-stakes progress reports,” Liu said in the statement.

The audit, announced March 2, will then be used by officials as an independent means of judging the report cards, according to Liu spokesman Scott Sieber.

“The audits we create are forwarded along to city managers and officials who are authorized and empowered to effect change on a city level,” Sieber said.

The progress reports are not used by the state when it identifies schools which might be up for closure, as it did in January when it released a list of 57 such schools statewide.

The schools — 10 of which are in Queens, including Flushing High School — were chosen by the state, which bases its selections on graduation rates and standardized testing scores.

The results of the audit and its eventual effects have yet to be determined.

“We’re hoping to have it done in a couple of months and what’s going to happen as a result will depend on the outcome of the audit,” Sieber said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:53 pm, October 10, 2011
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