An error in reporting third-graders’ test scores has led to accusations that a West Harlem charter school engaged in academic fraud, but administrators at the school say that the reporting error was a simple mistake.
At the New York French-American Charter School’s board of trustees meeting on Tuesday—which was largely focused on other topics—administrators addressed NYFACS parent Thomas Lopez-Pierre’s accusation that the school sent parents false test score information. Lopez-Pierre has said that Assistant Principal Claire Zaglauer sent emails to parents informing them that third-graders performed better on standardized tests than they actually did.
According to Parent Teacher Organization recording secretary Fia Porter, Zaglauer implied in a June 11 email that 86 percent of third-graders scored proficiently on English-Language Arts exams, surpassing the 75 percent-proficient benchmark required by the school’s charter. The reality, though, was that 86 percent of students had passed the test—only about 56 percent scored proficiently, short of the 75 percent benchmark.
Board of trustees member Elisabeth Cros, though, said at the meeting that the email represented a “little mistake” rather than a real source of concern. In a letter to families last week, Richard Ortoli, the chairman of the board of trustees, said that Lopez-Pierre’s accusation of academic fraud was “completely unfounded.”
“I realized that my first email was not fully accurate,” Zaglauer said at the board meeting, after Lopez-Pierre asked her about the mistake. “I did my best to rectify it.”
Porter, though, said that the errors were too troubling to dismiss completely. According to Porter, the year’s first Parent Teacher Organization meeting, although intended to be a meet-and-greet, ended up being focused on the exam scores.
“Recently there has been a great deal of discomfort and questions about the reporting of test scores,” Porter said. “The test scores were erroneously reported to the parent body.”
“The first email is absolutely, 100 percent, unequivocally erroneous,” she added.
Porter also said she was concerned that the error was “not understood, acknowledged, or explained.” She said parents were entitled to a higher level of transparency, especially given recent turnover in the school’s administration. (Zaglauer and Principal Edith Boncompain are recent hires.)
“That’s the current kind of question that hangs over the administration,” Porter said. “Why not? Why was this situation not acknowledged?”
Porter added, however, that she hoped parents would move forward from the issue. She called Boncompain a “tremendously positive force” and said that the “questionable decision-making” that the test score reporting signified would not determine NYFACS’ reputation.
“Although this is troubling for parents, it’s not the focus of the beginning of our school year,” Porter said, adding, “We have other business to deal with, and that’s the education of our kids and the growth and improvement of our school.”
At the meeting, Boncompain expressed regret that parents were “focusing on negativity.”
“We’re trying hard to be a team together and showing what it is to be a team,” Boncompain said, adding, “I don’t agree with people being disrespectful and aggressive.”
In response to parent questions at the meeting, Boncompain and Zaglauer also detailed steps the school is taking to improve, including adopting a new math curriculum, ordering new textbooks, and continuing Saturday morning enrichment classes.
“The energy is very positive,” Boncompain said. “We got a chance to go round the classroom every day … Things are going smoothly.”
Cros said that it was “exhausting to waste our time on adult problems.” She added that the combined leadership of Zaglauer and Boncompain, given their different backgrounds and qualifications, would help improve the school.
“They are passionate about education, that’s all,” Cros said.