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August Martin gets high marks in survey

Long Island City High School and three others Mayor Michael Bloomberg planned to close are ranked below average by parents, teachers and students, according to school survey reports released by the city Department of Education.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A day before a state judge rebuked the mayor’s attempt to shutter seven Queens high schools, parents, teachers and students at four of the institutions rated their schools below average, according to surveys the city Department of Education released Monday.

Between February and April, 967,009 parents, teachers and students in Grades 6 through 12 across the city filled out the school surveys, which asked them to rate their schools on a scale from 1 to 10 in the areas of academic expectations, communication, engagement and safety and respect. The surveys will determine 10 percent to 15 percent of the letter grade on each school’s next progress report.

The communities in and surrounding Flushing, Richmond Hill, William Cullen Bryant, Long Island City, John Adams, Newtown and August Martin high schools started voicing their opposition in January, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he planned to close the schools, remove more than half the teachers and reopen them as new schools in the fall.

Protestations continued through April, when the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to authorize the closings, seemingly hammering in the final death knell. An arbitrator, however, recently ruled the plan violated union contracts.

On Tuesday, State Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis upheld the arbitrator’s decision. The city Law Department said it would appeal the ruling, though that process could take weeks, and school doors open in September.

Positive survey responses in nearly every category were up compared to 2011, and the DOE noted that since satisfaction was high, it was possible for a school to have positive survey responses, yet still be below the average set by responders at other schools.

“Readers should consider the survey responses in this report both on their own and in the context of responses from other schools,” the report advised.

Flushing HS, for example, scored below average in three categories and average in one. Fewer teachers at the school, compared to teachers at others, believed the principal had confidence in their expertise.

The reports are available on the DOE’s website, and they list information such as the questions asked and the percentages of responses, which may reveal more about the school than the scores alone do.

Teachers at William Cullen Bryant HS responded that they thought they lacked adequate materials, equipment and technology, and students responded they did not participate in many hands-on activities like science experiments. Parents generally gave the school high marks across the board.

At Richmond Hill HS, which came in below average in every category, students felt their peers only looked out for themselves, on of the factors resulting in the school’s very low safety score.

Long Island City HS received low marks for school safety, with a large number of students responding that they did not feel their peers treated teachers with respect.

John Adams HS ranked average in every category except safety and respect, with 72 percent of responding students saying physical fights happen either some or most of the time.

Two of the other schools in Bloomberg’s crosshairs received overall positive reports.

Newtown HS scored either average or above average in every category, earning high marks from teachers who responded that the school set and supported high academic expectations.

August Martin HS received high marks from parents and students across the board and beat the city average in every category, though teachers’ responses were not included because too few filled out the surveys.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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