Ready for the new school year
A new school year is bringing some fresh faces to a couple of Capital Region districts just a few days after three of its schools were put on the State Education Department's troubled "priority" list. Our Solomon Syed spoke with administrators in Schenectady and Albany for the start of a very important year for both districts.
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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. -- A tale of two districts, only in this case, both facing the same issue: Struggling performance and a homework assignment from the state: Make improvements.
"I believe, I believe we can do this."
New Schenectady City School Superintendent Laurence Spring greeted hundreds of teachers at a pre-orientation gathering in Proctor's Theater, one that sounded more like a pep rally for a district in crisis.
"Clearly we have challenges: Fiscal challenges, academic achievement challenges," said Schenectady School Board President Cathy Lewis.
Three of the district's schools found their way onto the state's troubled "priority" list. The high school with a graduation rate below 60 percent and both Lincoln and Hamilton elementary schools, their students grossly underperforming in common core subjects like math and English.
Spring said, "We know we've got big work to do and this is not unique to Schenectady."
The situation even more desperate in the City of Albany school district: Three schools, including the high school, got the priority designation and another 12 made the focus list for underachievement heading into the new year.
Schuyler Achievement Academy Principal Jolinda Soto said, "We're at a point in this building where we know that there's a lot that needs to be done."
Soto is the principle at Schuyler elementary, one of the priority schools.
"We need to make sure we're assessing the students, their academic needs and that we're using that assessment to then drive our instruction," Soto said.
"All of our schools will be developing plans. We call them ‘seat up’ plans. Our graduation rate needs to go up. We're in the mid-50s, we need to be at 75 percent. We need to do better, faster," said Raymond Colucciello, Albany School District Superintendent.
Meanwhile, Schenectady's developing a Committee of Equity and Excellence to do the same in its district.
"We need to work really hard not just at increasing achievement across the board, but also ensuring that your race, your economic situation, your disability is not a predictor of achievement."
Committees in Albany and Schenectady will have to report data back to the state so it can check if performance levels are meeting yearly improvement standards. If they do, the schools on those priority lists could be each be eligible for up to $2 million in grants each year for up to three years.