Data from the City’s Department of Education (DOE) indicates that there may be a correlation between the amount an elementary school spends on each student, and how many applications it receives for each available seat. A further connection may be observed between per-student spending and achievement, as measured by standardized test scores. These parallels can be discerned by sifting statistics about six, high-achieving public elementary schools in Lower Manhattan: P.S. 234, P.S. 276, P.S. 150, P.S. 89, the Peck Slip School, and the Spruce Street School.
For all elementary schools City-wide, the DOE spends an average of $23,560 per student each year. For the six schools in Lower Manhattan, this figure ranges between a high of between $24,385, at P.S. 150, and a low of $18,557, at P.S. 234. This means that P.S. 150 is spending just 3.5 percent more on each student that the City-wide average, but is investing 31 percent more on each child than P.S. 234.
P.S. 150’s status as the most lavish spender on each pupil tracks closely with the demand for seats at the highly regarded school. According to DOE data first published earlier this year by the website DNAinfo.com, there are 16.36 applicants for each of the 25 kindergarten seats at P.S. 150. The spending data also correlates to fourth-grade standardized test scores: 96 percent of the students who took the English Language Arts (ELA) test last year scored in the third or fourth quadrants, indicating proficiency. This places the school first among the six listed here, seventh among the 700-plus public elementary schools operated by the DOE across all five boroughs, and ranks it among the top one percent of New York City schools public elementary overall.
But P.S. 234’s bottom rank in terms of per-student spending does not translate into lower test scores, or last place when demand for seats is tabulated. It placed second among Lower Manhattan schools for ELA scores in the fourth grade last year, with 82 percent of its students scoring in the top quadrants, ranking it 32nd among all public schools, and placing it in the top four percent of elementary schools. P.S. 234 also draws 3.98 applications for each of its 150 available kindergarten seats, which ranks it in the middle of the pack for the six Lower Manhattan schools.
Oddly, if the spending data are sorted by another criteria — the amount of money, per student, spent on teacher salaries — P.S. 150 and P.S. 234 rank dead last among Lower Manhattan schools. The former shells out $7,308 in this category, while the latter splurges $7,708. The biggest spender on teacher salaries Downtown is P.S. 89, which allots $9,157 in this category. But P.S. 89 ranked fifth among the six Lower Manhattan schools in term of fourth-grade ELA scores, with 76 percent of students taking top marks. This earned the school a rank of 50 among elementary schools around the City, and places it in the top seven percent. Demand for seats at P.S. 89, however, is slightly higher than at P.S. 234, with 4.27 students seeking each of the 100 available kindergarten seats last year.
Moreover, the shibboleth among parents and educators that small class sizes are strongly conducive to educational achievement is at least partly contradicted by the performance of both P.S. 150 and P.S. 234 students on the fourth-grade ELA tests. These schools rank first and second among the six examined here, in terms of numbers of students per class. According to the DOE, the average fourth-grade class at P.S. 150 has 28 children, while the same figure at P.S. 234 is 27 students.
The easiest school for a prospective kindergarten student to get into in Lower Manhattan, at least in statistical terms, appears to be Peck Slip, which elicits 2.06 applicants for each of its 125 available seats. (Of course, this means that any child’s chance of gaining admission is still slightly less than 50 percent.) But this opportunity appears not to be driven by test scores or spending: Peck Slip placed fourth among the six Downtown elementary schools, when ranked by last year’s fourth-grade ELA scores, with 76 percent of its kids placing in the third or fourth quadrant. This ranks the school 49th among all New York City public elementary schools, and places it in the top seven percent of its peers. When ranked by spending, Peck Slip finishes second in terms of overall dollars per student ($22,715) and third in dollars per student spent on teachers ($9,091).