Skip to main content

Gary Rubinstein’s Blog: Is P-Tech a Miracle School or a Failing School?

In the preface to Joel Klein’s new book, Lessons Of Hope, he writes about the amazing turnaround of Paul Robeson High School.  In 2008 a student was stabbed and nearly died there.  Reacting to this incident, Klein writes:

After six years on the job as New York City’s schools chancellor, I know the scenario and how this will play out:  Robeson will have to be closed and replaced.

The next paragraph fast forwards to February 2013:

I’m watching President Obama deliver his State of the Union address, turning his attention to the problems of American education.  I lean forward, listening attentively as he tells the story of a school I know well, P-Tech, in Brooklyn — housed in what had once been Robeson, the school where the boy was stabbed.  He praises it for putting “our kids on a path to a good job,” noting that students there “will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering.”

Change had come, kicking and screaming.  How did it happen?  How had the place that was once Robeson, where basic safety was imperiled, been transformed in fewer than five years into a national showcase?

P-Tech started in September 2011 so when Obama made this speech, it had been open for a year and a half, then having 9th and 10th graders.  It was surely too soon to declare the school a success.  Today the the test scores from all the high schools in New York City were released (data here) and with all the talk of ‘failing schools’ that is happening out here, I thought I’d take a look at what P-Tech was up to.

In New York we have three different Math Regents tests.  Ninth graders generally take Algebra I, tenth graders take Geometry, and eleventh graders take Algebra II / Trigonometry.  While 65 is passing, I noticed that in P-Tech the average Geometry grade was a 47 out of 100.  This was the 7th lowest average in New York City.  In Algebra II / Trigonometry, P-Tech’s average score was a 36 out of 100.  This made them the 8th lowest school in the city.  To make matters worse, the Regents have a curve so to get a 36 is really like getting 22 out of 88, which is 25%.  In other words, the students did about the same as they would if they randomly guessed on the multiple choice section.  This could be the most un-miraculous miracle school I’ve ever investigated.

By comparison, I checked out another school that has been in the news a lot lately out here, Boys and Girls High School.  The principal just resigned there and all the teachers have to reapply for their jobs.  All the papers are calling for Boys and Girls High to be shut down.  So how did Boys and Girls do on these two tests.  Well, much better than P-Tech.  In Geometry they had a 59, which put them about 96th from the bottom, out of about 300 schools.  In Algebra II / Trig they also got a 59, but this was about 160th from the bottom, or better than about half the schools.

The question is whether or not StudentsFirstNY and Campbell Brown will start calling for this school to get shut down.  If nothing else, this is certainly embarrassing for all reformers who have been using P-Tech as a justification for their policies.

This blog post has been shared by permission from the author.
Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.
Find the original post here:

The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Gary Rubinstein

Gary Rubinstein is a high school math teacher. He is the recipient of the 2005 Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship. ...