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Schenectady school board sets student performance goals

Schenectady school board sets student performance goals

Schenectady school board sets student performance goals
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY -- The Schenectady City School District aims to increase the share of city residents who opt for a public school over private or charters school along with a litany of other goals the school board adopted Wednesday.

The goals – the first public performance targets the board has adopted in at least four years – also aim to improve student literacy and math proficiency, increase student and teacher attendance, strengthen parent engagement, and bolster staff diversity.

The goals come as part of a new strategic plan the school board adopted this summer. District officials at Wednesday’s board meeting presented the targets in a “district scorecard” that tracks a handful of measures for each of four categories outlined by the strategic plan: student and graduate success; passionate people (employees); partnerships with families and community; and, efficient systems and equitable resources.

Each measure has end-of-year goals for each of three school years, with a baseline based on the district’s standing as of the start of this coming school year. Each category on the scorecard also lists strategies the district plans to pursue in its effort to make progress on the measures. Some of the measures and targets come almost directly from state measures, while others are measures the district has already used in recent years. But some new ways of measuring goals will need to be developed in the coming years.

“The measuring of our progress should not take a huge amount of energy away from doing the progress,” Superintendent Larry Spring said at the board meeting.

The district targets for improving student math and literacy proficiency scores – among the lowest in the region – are based on a student performance index. The index weighs different student scores differently, so beyond just whether a students scores “proficient” -- scoring a 3 or 4 on state tests –- it also accounts for students who improve from a 1 to a 2 or from a 3 to a 4.

The index is based on a score of 0 to 200. The district’s baseline index scores on student math and literacy proficiency still need to be updated based on the latest annual state test scores, expected to be released in the next month.

The targets district officials outlined for the school board call for gains of between 5 percent and 6 percent on literacy in each of the next three school years, slightly higher than targets set by the state. In math, the district goals call for improvements of around 7 percent each year.

Other goals call for lowering the percent of students considered “chronically absent” by 1 percentage point each year. As part of the district’s focus on strengthening partnerships with families, one goal calls for increasing the percent of school-age kids in the district who enroll in the district, currently 86.3 percent, by around one-half percent each year.

District officials plan to update the board on progress on the different measures during quarterly academic and behavior reports, using tests the district already uses to track student progress throughout the year.

“If we know that we are way off where we think we should be we can put action plans in place in order to address it,” Aaron Bochniak, district director of planning and accountability, said of adjusting strategies in the face of lagging results.

Board members questioned district officials over how they planned to use the goals internally and how often they would present them to the board. 

“It is a work in progress,” board President John Foley said. “I think it is important the board weighs in on what it thinks of the plan and puts its stamp of approval on it.”

And so they did.

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