Schools still need fixing, state list says
CAPITAL REGION Schools in the Schenectady, Amsterdam and Albany school districts remain on the State Education Department’s list of schools “in need of improvement.”
All three districts have had schools on the list for multiple years. They are among the 543 elementary, middle and high schools in 53 districts that have been identified as not meeting standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
State standardized tests are used to measure student progress in math and science. Schools must show improvement in all groups of students, including low-income students, students with disabilities, limited English proficient students and different racial and ethnic groups.
The Schenectady City School District has had schools on the list for five years because of poor English language arts scores.
Superintendent Eric Ely said the district’s schools are making progress.
“The kids are performing better than they have been. They’re just not performing as highly as the state expectation has been,” he said.
The elementary schools are all in good standing, Ely said.
The group it struggles with is students with disabilities at the middle school level. At the high school level, the groups that are not making adequate yearly progress include Hispanic and black students and students with disabilities.
Ely said that unfortunately, the district’s difficult budget year means that a lot of initiatives such as smaller class sizes, extended day programs, extra tutoring and summer school could be at risk if federal stimulus funding does not replace the money that was cut.
The Greater Amsterdam School District had some good news: The Lynch Literacy Academy middle school got off the list. Superintendent Thomas Perillo said the district used its Contract for Excellence funds to hire a literacy coach to work with staff on improving reading and writing. Other initiatives the school implemented were extended day tutoring and summer programs. “The staff worked extremely hard with the students,” he said.
However, McNulty Academy Elementary School was placed on the list because it did not make adequate yearly progress for economically disadvantaged students, Hispanics and students with disabilities. The William B. Tecler Arts and Education Magnet School remains in need of improvement.
Perillo said the school plans to continue the initiatives it implemented at Lynch at the other buildings. This is the first year they have had literacy coaches at the elementary schools.
The city of Albany school district is on the list for two of its schools. District spokesman Ron Lesko said Giffen Memorial Elementary School missed its benchmark for both math and English for students with disabilities. North Albany Academy, which has students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, missed by just one percentage point for English students with disabilities.
“While the school gets tagged with a label, it’s not because the school is underperforming; we absolutely realize that we need to do work in particular with our students with disabilities.”
He said eight city elementary schools have also been identified by the state as rapidly improving.
“They improved, but not enough to meet the new higher benchmark for those areas,” he said.
Lesko said the district has implemented a co-teaching model where two teachers are handling kindergarten classes, and they plan on expanding that to first grade next year.
In addition, teachers have been trained to recognize students who need reading help at the earliest ages. The district is in its second year of having literacy coaches at the elementary level who are trained to instruct staff on how to be more effective classroom teachers.
The State Education Department also announced that 85 schools and 11 districts have been removed from the list because they made adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years in all areas for which they were identified. A total of 46 schools were removed from the list last year.
State officials pointed to improvement overall. Students achieving proficiency on the grade 3-8 English tests increases from 63 percent in 2006-07 to 69 percent in 2007-08, and those demonstrating proficiency on the 3-8 mathematics tests increased from 73 percent to 81 percent during that same time period.