The School Board blog has run the numbers for the city's elementary and middle schools where 4th-graders scored highest on the 2012 state standardized math and reading exams. Most of the top-ranking schools are no surprise -- they are gifted programs and schools in high-performing districts. An exception is number three on the list, PS 262 in Bedford Stuyvesant, a school where 95 percent of the students get free lunch. It ranked just below academic powerhouses Anderson, a citywide gifted program on the Upper West Side and Lower Lab, a District 2 program on the Upper East Side and ahead of NEST+M, a citywide gifted K-12 school.
PS 262, a neighborhood K-8 school, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, for years struggled with low test scores but has made a turn-around since 2004 when it was on the state's list of schools in need of improvement. A new principal came in that year and by 2006 the school was off the SINI list. In 2011, student performance had improved so much that PS 262 was one of 26 schools where teachers received cash bonuses from the city. It was one of five successful schools that then-chancellor Cathie Black toured on her first day on the job. Joeletha Ferguson, principal since 2004, was named a Cahn Fellow in 2012, an honor which recognizes outstanding principals.
School administrators were not available this week to explain the turn-around at this small Bed Stuy school. It's clear that more attention to strugging students has played a role. "Mandated students" arrive 37 minutes before the rest of the school for additional instruction, according to the school's voicemail. Test prep begins early in the school year for testing grades, according to the school's website, and kindergartners get nightly homework, including worksheets.
The only other high-poverty school listed in the top 25 schools having the best results on 4th grade tests is PS 172 in Brooklyn, a perennially high-performing school with stable leadership. Several of the top-ranked schools saw big gains in 4th grade test scores from 2011 to 2012 including tiny PS 150 in Tribeca, PS 222 in Brooklyn's District 22 and PS 101 in Forest Hills. No schools in either the Bronx or Staten Island were among the top 25 performers on 4th grade tests.
Click here to see School Board's rundown of the scores.