Just two weeks after being named one of the top school districts upstate, New Hartford’s Perry Junior High has been added to the state’s “in need of improvement” list.
It’s not alone.
Nineteen other schools in Herkimer and Oneida counties were added to the list, and are part of what the State Education Department has called an “unprecedented” wave of schools failing to meet the state’s minimum standards.
Statewide, 847 elementary, middle and high schools were newly identified and added to the list, including 89 school districts. That brings the total number of schools not making standards to 1,325. Last year, just 102 schools and four districts were added to the list.
In late October, Buffalo-based Business First released its rankings of school districts, based on three years of Regents test scores and over 100 other statistical measures. New Hartford was ranked the top school in the Utica-Rome area and seventh across upstate New York.
The contradiction of being one of the best districts in the state and having a school in need of improvement was not lost on Vincent Condro, New Hartford’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and highlights what the “in need of improvement” list released Thursday says about a school.
“We’re cited as not making adequate yearly progress for a small subset of students,” Condro said.
Specifically, students who have learning disabilities and receive special education services did not make adequate yearly progress on their standardized tests over two years’ time.
In 17 of 18 other measures the school passed.
The school is now working on getting the scores up for that particular group.
“We are participating in a school quality review process,” he said. “It’s a challenge for everyone.”
Districts were informed earlier in the year that they might be placed on the list. Utica expected six of its elementary schools to make the list and has been working with students to increase scores. It’s Thomas Proctor High School and Sen. James H. Donovan Middle School are not new to the list, they’re on the lowest rung of the state’s accountability system. Whitesboro’s middle school was also added to the list.
Educators lament that they have a moving target, and it keeps getting harder to make annual yearly progress.
With its release of the list, the state acknowledged the factors that have contributed to this year’s large amount of failing schools.
Among them include a statistical adjustment for students with disabilities had “sunset” in 2009-10 and that “has made it more difficult for this group to demonstrate AYP,” and higher high school graduation expectations.
The biggest factor, however, is the state’s decision to raise the cut scores in 2010.
Page 2 of 2 - A school makes the list when an identified subgroup of students, like special education students, fails to make adequate yearly progress on the tests two years in a row.
Statewide, 23 schools improved and were removed from the list, including Barringer Road Elementary School in Ilion. Unfortunately, while one school improved, two slipped. Remington Elementary School and the junior-senior high school were newly added schools to the list.
“It’s not really, I believe, an accurate measure of how our students do in the Ilion school district,” Ilion Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. “One or two students get us on the list because our schools are so small.”
He credits Barringer Road’s removal from the list to the plan the district put into place to turn the scores around, and said the same attention would be given to the two newly-identified schools.
New York and other states are applying for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act, which is where the accountability system comes from and which requires all students be proficient in English and Math by 2014.
On Thursday, state officials recommitted the state to the goals of NCLB and the new common core standards being piloted this year.
“While the 2014 NCLB deadline for proficiency for all may not be achieved, it’s the right goal and it should be our goal,” State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said.