Schenectady County

State puts ‘focus’ on Schenectady schools

Most of the Schenectady City School District’s schools have been designated in need of improvement,

Most of the Schenectady City School District’s schools have been designated in need of improvement, state education officials announced Thursday.

Fifteen city schools were tagged as “focus” schools, which means they have low-achieving students or low graduation rates. Focus schools need to develop a comprehensive education plan for how they will improve.

Earlier this year, New York was successful in obtaining a waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. That law stated that all students had to be proficient in English and math by 2014. The new standard states that proficiency is defined in terms of college and career readiness and the state Education Department developed these new classifications to fit that standard.

Superintendent Laurence Spring said school officials requested the state tag the entire district as a “focus” school because they know there are pervasive issues. Among the problems are low performance by African-American, Hispanic and disabled students in English and math and a graduation rate of 60 percent.

“It’s something we want to address in a systematic manner,” he said.

Spring said he plans to establish the Schenectady Committee on Equity and Excellence, a group to be made up of 10 to 20 school and community members, to analyze what can be done for those groups of students.

“We know that an awful lot of these kids that are not achieving are feeling disenfranchised from school. They don’t feel like they belong,” he said.

Solutions could include redesigning curriculum and offering more professional development for teachers. The district is going to set some targets for where they would like students’ achievement to be in one year and five years.

“We really can’t base success on whether people are doing the things they said they should do. It really has to rest on getting the results they said they would get,” Spring said.

Spring said there’s no easy solution. “Learning is effort based. We need students to work really hard in order to meet these pretty rigorous achievement targets. That means we’ve got to kind of reflect and look back where along the way are we losing kids.”

Other districts with schools on the list are Albany, Amsterdam, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Gloversville, Northville and Troy. Cobleskill-Richmondville was identified because special education students at William H. Golding Middle School did not meet the proficiency target for English language arts.

Superintendent Lynn Macan said the district spent the past year developing a comprehensive plan that will be implemented this school year.

“They’re growing, but it may not be at the rate of a typical non-special needs student of the same chronological age or grade,” she said.

Reach Gazette reporter Michael Goot at 395-3105 or [email protected]

In addition to classifying focus schools, the state identified high-achieving, or “reward,” schools. In the Capital Region, these include schools in the Niskayuna, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Galway, Guilderland, North Colonie, Bethlehem and Lake George districts.

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