Hundreds graduate yearly from Amsterdam High School, but according to New York State, we are a school in need of improvement. Why is this? New York State doesn’t count how many seniors graduate, they count how many freshmen graduate four years after entering high school. This group of freshmen is called a cohort. The state has set the cohort graduation levels at 55 percent. That is, 55 percent of the entering freshmen will have to graduate from AHS in four years, for our school to meet the state’s standards.
That may not seem hard and it isn’t. AHS routinely surpasses this aspect of the state’s requirements, doing so in the 08-09 school year by 5 percent. It is when the cohort is broken down into subgroups (Hispanic/Latino students, white students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students) that our school does not measure up. The state requires that 55 percent of students in each of these sub-groups must graduate in four years as well.
In 08-09 our school passed only white students subgroup, with 69 percent graduating on time. In the other three groups, we fell short of the state’s standards, graduating only 37 percent of Hispanic/Latino students, 18 of our students with disabilities, and 37 percent of our economically disadvantaged students within four years. Mr. Ziskin commented on the subject that, “there is some intersection; some overlap of the three subgroups we’re identified for,” and adding that, “In some cases, we’re talking about kids in two [or] three of those categories.” This presents the problem that now faces the administration.
To combat the issue, district officials, along with state support, created the team to work on the Comprehensive Education Plan, or the C.E.P. This group of 20 people have been working, and continue to work very hard at solving this problem. One of the products of this team, whose effectiveness will be measured next year, is the ninth grade academy. “The team has been looking at the root cause of underperformance of these subgroups, and also in diagnosing and prescribing the solution to those causes, by developing and implementing specific action plans. That’s overall called our comprehensive education plan,” says Mr. Ziskin.
Due to the fact that we are a school in need of improvement, the state demands that we show that we are trying to fix the problem, and the school looks forward to submitting the C.E.P to the state in January. Looking to the future, Mr. Ziskin says that, “I do believe we’re getting better,” but the school report card put out by the state in the spring will be based on last year’s graduating class, and therefore demonstrable improvements may not be apparent right away. Due to this fact, Mr. Ziskin says that we, “have to remain determined and understand that [the report card from the state] isn’t recognizing the improvements we have made [already].”
Jonathan Nelson is a sophomore at Amsterdam High School