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March 27, 2002

Latest school report cards show gains by some schools that serve poor, minority kids

New York's latest school report cards show overall improvement, including major gains by some schools that serve mainly impoverished and minority students.

The report cards also show that gaps in achievement between poor and minority students and others remain high, the state Education Department (SED) said in a release.

The report cards showed that:

"Some people believe that differences in performance are inevitable — that the effects of poverty cannot be overcome, for example," said Rick Mills, New York's commissioner of education. "Consider this striking finding, though: Thousands of minority and poor students in many schools have been able to improve their achievement, sometimes dramatically."

SED said closing gaps in achievement requires a variety of strategies, including a firm commitment to standards, a rigorous curriculum for all, recruiting and training of effective teachers, community involvement, improved instruction, and an emphasis on teacher-guided reading.

School report-card information is posted at SED's Web site

School report cards were first suggested by The Business Council's research affiliate, The Public Policy Institute, which developed and published the prototype.

The Business Council then successfully advocated the public release of annual school report cards so that parents, schoolchildren, teachers, school-district officials, and communities can evaluate their schools and their schools' rate of improvement.

Using the same data that are used in school report cards, The Business Council each year awards the prestigious Pathfinder Award to those schools that show the most improvement from one year to the next.

The Pathfinder Award program is in its second year. Last year, 27 schools around the state received the award in the first year. This year, 25 schools around the state are receiving the honor.

The Business Council gives Pathfinder Awards to at least two public schools in each of 12 different regions across the state. These regions are the state's judicial districts; awards are being made by those districts because appointments to the state Board of Regents are based on those regions. In some regions, if more than two schools show nearly identical levels of improvement, more than two may be recognized. Schools that win the award receive $1,000 for the school's programs and a trophy in recognition of their achievement.