Last week, Gossips published the link to the U.S. News & World Report annual report on the state of schools in the country and the data it provided for the Hudson City School District, information that was also shared by Ken Sheffer in his April 25 opinion piece, "Now, More Than Ever, It Is Time for an 'Emergency Intervention.'"
Yesterday, Gossips received an email from Dr. Lisamarie Spindler, superintendent of the Hudson City School District, explaining that the school rankings in U.S. News & World Report do not accurately reflect the academic achievement in HCSD and seeking to set the record straight. With her permission, the text of her letter is reproduced below.
I saw your blog post about the U.S. News & World Report school rankings, and while I do appreciate your interest and reporting on the school district, your post is missing important context about these rankings and it paints an incomplete representation of the Hudson City School District. You pointed out that Hudson is ranked 736th in the state and scored 47.81 out of 100, but you did not mention how this ranking system is based on extremely narrow criteria--test participation/scores and graduation rates--or how the Hudson City School District faces challenges that many of the top-ranked schools in this list do not face--particularly the high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
Admittedly there is room for improvement in student performance on state exams, however, it should be noted that many factors contribute to student test scores, and some factors are more prevalent in a district like Hudson comparted to more affluent communities, such as poverty, food insecurity, and nonpermanent or transient housing. The District does what it can to address these issues, such as school food pantries, clothing closets, and employing social workers to support families in need, but these factors can greatly impact a student's ability to do well in school.
Another issue with the ranking criteria is the narrow definition of "college readiness" and heavy emphasis on how many students took and passed the Advanced Placement exams. It costs almost $100 for a student to take an Advanced Placement exam, which is a steep price for many families in our district and a huge barrier to AP exam access for those who cannot get financial assistance. The U.S. News rankings measure "college readiness" solely by "participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams," thereby labeling Hudson High School with a low college readiness ranking because fewer students are able to take these exams, let alone multiple exams. Furthermore, a student's ability to be ready for and succeed in college is not dependent on whether they took or performed well on an AP exam. There are many opportunities for Hudson students to become college-ready other than AP exams that allow them to earn college credits, including the Bard Early College program and more than a dozen college-credit-bearing courses offered at Hudson High School. We also have multiple articulation agreements with colleges to offer early college high school pathways that are not acknowledged in the data used by U.S. News. Also, it must be recognized that college is not the desired path for every high school graduate and many graduates choose to enter the workforce instead of attending college. The U.S. News' narrow criteria for college readiness are incomplete measures of our students' actual readiness for college (or career). It is unreasonable to put so much emphasis (40% of the total score) on these narrow definitions of college readiness when assigning a score to represent the overall quality of a school
Lastly, Hudson's graduation rates are not nearly as dismal as [implied in the post "Now, More Than Ever, It Is Time for an 'Emergency Intervention,'" which] claimed that Hudson High School's graduation rate is "at a cliff's edge." . . . [T]his is far from true. The data below from the New York State Education Department shows Hudson's graduation rates over the last decade, and if they are "at a cliff's edge" it is only because they've climbed so much since 2013 and are reaching the top of the cliff. The data clearly shows that Hudson's graduation rates are comparable to and sometimes even higher than the New York State average (when looking at the Building graduation rate, which is specific to the students who actually attend classes in Hudson High School, whereas the District graduation rate includes special education students who attend out-of-district programs that Hudson has no control over--an important distinction to be made when using graduation rates to judge a school and the quality of education provided to students in its buildings). The U.S. News school rankings seem to use the District graduation rate in its criteria instead of the Building graduation rate, which is a more accurate representation of the school.
While improving student proficiency on state assessments continues to be a priority for the Hudson City School District, Hudson's progress is something to be proud of, and to see the hard work of students and staff being undermined by inaccurate and incomplete reporting is disheartening. The lack of context and the reliance on a single and limited source of information in these posts is a disservice to our school district, your readers, and the Hudson community. . . .