Clarkstown Schools Identified By State As “District In Need of Improvement”

Some students with disabilities did not achieve proficient level on state tests

Clarkstown Central School District Superintendent Margaret Keller-Cogan said students with disabilities in the D-wing of the Felix Festa Middle School did not reach the 2011 ELA test scores required by the state. This is the second year in a row, the special needs students fell short of the state required scores thus causing Clarkstown to be labeled as a “district in need of improvement.” The superintendent notified parents in an email sent Wednesday.

The in English Language Arts and Mathematics was developed as part of the federal “No Child Left Behind” program. It measures the yearly progress of students and is given to grades three through eight. According to the email message, if the student population does not achieve a score showing proficiency the district becomes one considered in need of improvement.

The superintendent said the data was received in late August and an improvement plan has been submitted. The district has until the end of October to verify the data. Felix Festa Principal Diane Basso will schedule a meeting for parents and residents to learn about and discuss the improvement plan. The Clarkstown Teachers Association expects to have input also.

“Based upon the efforts of the students and teachers, we were expecting better results,” Gregory Montague, president of the Clarkstown Teachers Association. “That being said, we have to see this as an indicator of the areas we need to focus more closely on.”

At least one Board of Education member found out when parents did.

“First of all I’m shocked,” said Phillip DeGaetano, board member and former board president. “I learned when the public learned. I’m very troubled by this whole thing. The superintendent never told us that two of our schools were in this category.”

Montague said he had information earlier.

“I was actually aware of, but had not been officially notified about, the issue earlier in the week,” said Montague.

The Birchwood School, which serves students from age five through 21 with significant emotional, behavioral and learning problems, fell short of a state requirement for all high school students to complete their coursework in four years.

“Birchwood was noted for its graduation rate,” said Keller-Cogan, explaining that some Birchwood students did not graduate in exactly four years; they needed several additional months to complete their coursework.  

If the Clarkstown does not improve the scores it could lose federal Title I funding which is provided to districts with a certain percentage of economically disadvantaged youths. 

If the Clarkstown does not improve the scores it could lose federal Title I funding, which is provided to districts with a certain percentage of economically disadvantaged youths. According to Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, Ed. D. Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Professional Development, a district receives Title I funds based upon its poverty level.  Clarkstown uses free and reduced lunch applications to determine if it has met the threshold prescribed by Title I.  Its allocation fluctuates based upon how many schools qualify on the basis of free and reduced lunches.

She explained those funds are used to support students who do not meet proficiency on the English Language Arts and/or mathematics state assessments by providing additional instruction before and after school. Clarkstown will have to reallocate funds for the supplemental educational services and for professional development of the staff working with the students with disabilities.

This is the superintendent’s letter sent to parents.

August 31, 2011

Dear Clarkstown Parents and Guardians:

As mandated by the federal legislation, No Child Left Behind, and to provide schools, teachers and parents with an assessment of student achievement, New York State has developed the New York State Testing Program in English Language Arts and Mathematics for Grades 3 through 8.  These standardized tests are given annually. They challenge students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in English Language Arts and Mathematics and to help ensure that students are prepared for high school and beyond.  Our achievement results also include outcomes for students who reside in our community but do not attend our schools.

In the  spring 2011, Clarkstown’s students took the New York State English and Mathematics Assessments. Each year all students including students with disabilities, limited English Learners, and those who are economically disadvantaged, must meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), which means they must score at the proficient level of performance on each assessment. Since we did not make Adequate Yearly Progress in English Language Arts in the subgroup for Students with Disabilities, this resulted in the district becoming a district in need of improvement.

The district has filed the required improvement plan that includes steps that we will take to assist students with disabilities to make progress towards demonstrating proficiency in English Language Arts. In order to enhance the partnership between home and school, and as part of the Federal government’s requirement, we are notifying parents of this effort.


 Dr. Margaret Keller-Cogan

Superintendent of Schools

Jerry September 04, 2011 at 12:36 AM
What a mess. This reads like dis-incentive to "sneak" my kid into the CCSD.
Mary Smith September 04, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Guy, Yet again, you are getting your information incorrectly. Doug Katz, Donna Ehrenberg, Phil DeGaetano and Kevin Grogan are not telling you the truth. Schools falling apart. How can that be Dr. Keller-Cogan's fault. The blame is squarely on the past boards of Lorette Adams and Bill Heebink who consistently raised our taxes, built a pool, etc.. while the schools were falling apart. The roaches have been at North since the 1970's. No one ever did anything about it!!!!!!!!! Next thing, Dr. Keller-Cogan is going to be blamed for the Mets having a losing season! Get a grip. In regards to Laurel Plains, after $150,000 was spent of my heard earned money, Laurel Plains had nothing wrong with it. Guy, you should know your facts before you pronounce them. Shame on you, Guy!
Tony T September 04, 2011 at 10:06 AM
'Education Dept. report card rivals jobs report in depressing news: NYC City schools are giant failure in 2011' The above headline is from the Sunday Daily News....Cogan and her cronies have Clarkstown School in some real good company!! What has happen what went wrong?
Deejay September 04, 2011 at 12:12 PM
Thank you to Patch for an informative article. Curious why it hasn't appeared in the Journal News.
Mike Hirsch September 04, 2011 at 12:48 PM
I actually thought the article was sensationalist and somewhat misleading. Of the 18 categories measured by the state, Clarkstown passed 17 and failed 1. There was no mention of that in the article.
Phil Leiter September 04, 2011 at 02:14 PM
It is clear in the article the issue is specific to Students with Disabilities, though the headline implies the entire CCSD is deficient. These assertions that CCSD student performance is declining are not supported by NYSED data. The ELA tests changed little until 2010, so the performance gap between CCSD and NYS closed even as CCSD scored higher! CCSD students Level 3-4 increased from 81% to 90% between 2006-2009, yet the gap over NYS decreased from 24% to14%. Other districts were training for the tests. The tests were made much tougher in 2010, and again in 2011; yet the mean score of CCSD students in 2011 is only 0.6% lower than 2006. More important, the assessments in both years required higher scores to earn the same levels of proficiency. NYS students Level 3-4 on the ELA plummeted from 77.5% in 2009 to 53.2% in 2010. The CCSD dropped from 90% to 66%. In 2011, the percentage of CCSD students Level 3-4 increased to 72% while NYS dropped to 52.8%. The CCSD’s performance gap in 2010 and 2011 increased to +19% over NYS and +10% over the rest of Rockland. The data shows that CCSD students significantly outperform their statewide and county peers. The CCSD is “in need of improvement” specifically in regard to Students with Disabilities. With only 14.5% of these students Level 3-4 in NYS in 2011 (compared to 50% of Birchwood students), it may well be the state’s assessment and AYP calculations that are flawed.
Mary Smith September 04, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Mike and Phil, Of course this was not mentioned in the article that we met 17 of the 18 targets. The New City Patch is Phil DeGaetano's mouth piece. It has consistently only reported one side of the story, Phil's version. What has happened to investigative journalism? Mike and Phil, thank you for seeing through the lies that the board majority are spreading. I applaud you for seeking the truth! When people cry it is time for a change in Clarkstown, my senior club table is now talking change about making sure that Phil DeGaetano, Doug Katz and Donna Ehrenberg are never re-elected to the School Board!!! Katz, Ehrenberg and DeGaetano have destroyed the district!
GWashington September 04, 2011 at 04:45 PM
No Child Left Behind Dilemma: Are the standards to low: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2007/10/18/20587/no-child-left-behind-dilemma-what.html "That states vary widely in their definitions of student proficiency seems little short of bizarre."..."Three states—Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Missouri—have established world-class standards in math and reading as the goal for all students." http://educationnext.org/few-states-set-worldclass-standards/ The statements by some that the Federal Government has control over the states regarding NCLB is erroneous. Each state is allowed control over the description of "proficiency" and therefore sets its own standards. A clear definition of the standard levels, as referenced in a post above "Level 3-4" is necessary. "Meeting Proficiency" is not necessarily something to crow about in CCSD as New York is not a state that has set world class standards, yet we EXCEED WORLD CLASS TAXES, to achieve sub-par standards. Parents should think about these standards in a more personal manner, "Do I want my child to just get by, or do I want him or her to exceed the standard and be a high achiever?" As a former administrator in CCSD mentioned, parents, should, again, ask themselves, "Are we sacrificing these large sums of money in taxes to have my son or daughter "learn how to get along with one another"?
GWashington September 04, 2011 at 04:59 PM
New York State has for generations, has a standardized exam which, no teacher, no administrator, and no parent has denigrated. It is called The New York State Regents Exam. The complaints that teachers are "teaching to the test" have apparently never sat through a Regents class. Achieving a Regents Diploma from High School in the State of New York, at one time, had value. Have we replaced that with the "I can get along" Diploma, or the "I Meet Proficiency" Diploma? Shame on the former teachers, administrators, whoever you are, that were a part of the Clarkstown of lore. That Clarkstown Educational System no longer exists. It has been subverted into a piecemeal system of social do-gooders, apathetic conformers, and yes, TRANSIENTS, who slip in and out of the system with no care for the community that has labored here for hundreds of years. Putting down roots and electing officials with concern for the pocketbooks of the taxpayers and the education of their children is what a real "feel good" society is about. Fiscal restraint and consolidation need to be the order of the day. This is the legacy we own "the children."
Mary Smith September 04, 2011 at 05:50 PM
G. Washington, You keep harping on that our hard earned tax dollars have gone down the drain because our students with disabilities did not meet their target numbers set forth by the State of New York. As my niece has told me, we have families that move to Clarkstown because of our special education program. Asking these students to achieve excellence on these exams for some is impossible to do. If they could achieve similar results to students without disabilitites there would be no need for special education. Having these children pass these exams is like asking Phil DeGaetano and Doug Katz to take College Entrance Exams. It's beyond their intellectual abilities. But hey-they blame Dr. Keller-Cogan. LOOK BEYOND THEIR SMOKE AND MIRRORS FOLKS!! Phil and his cronies are like the characters in the wizard of oz. Donna Ehrenberg (the wicked witch of the west), Phil DeGaetano (the scarecrow, if I only had a brain), Kevin Grogan (The tin man, if I only had a heart), Doug (the cowardly lion, Courage, I need COURAGE) and Lorette Adams (The wizard)--hiding behind her cronies, spinning her lies and deception to make the community this she is powerful. She's not Clarkstown. If she really cared about CCSD, she would have run for re-election. As we discussed at my senior club table, maybe she did not run because she knew she could not win. Instead she supports bullies who are nothing more than bullets on a string.
Mary Smith September 04, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Lorette Adams needs to be held ACCOUNTABLE for letting Clarkstown fall apart while she was on the Board of Education. GW, people have been trying to get rid of Regent exams for years! As you see, it has not worked! We as a community must stand together and say enough is enough. Support education! Extend Dr. Keller-Cogan's contract!
Mary Smith September 04, 2011 at 05:55 PM
G. Washington, You got me so upset!!! I meant to write puppets on a string!
MrOctane89 September 04, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Mike and Phil L, THANK YOU for posting educational information backed up with facts. Clarkstown has not been OVERALL Number 1 in over 20 years. Find those FACTS on Google searchs! Pearl River and Ramapo have been the top 2 with Clarkstown being number 3. You also need to compare APPLES to APPLES. So tired of misinformed people BLOGGING. Have ANYof YOU made an appointment to meet with MKC and ASK HER about your questions and concerns? I bet NOT! You just believe "mud slinging" with no back up proof. Aren't you tired of looking foolish?
MrOctane89 September 04, 2011 at 06:05 PM
GW, you need to get educated on the destruction of educational system due to Bush's NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND LAW. It HAS affected Clarkstown as well as EVERY OTHER DISTRICT in the United States!! It especially affects the students with disabilities', which happens to include on of my own children. I see 1st hand what this horrific law has imposed on our children with disabilities. Instead of blaming MKC, why don't you spend your energy lobbying the governments on local, state and federal levels to assess children with disabilities on their LEVELS instead of trying to fit them into the same category as the non special education students? THAT would be something POSITIVE to do!! It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to say return Clarkstown to what it used to be. It didn't have these same constraints and mandates 20 plus years ago. MKC has done a great job in CCSD. To the majority of the BOE, DON"T SPEND MY HARD EARNED DOLLARS on a SEARCH FIRM! Use that money to help our Special Education Students!!! EXTEND HER CONTRACT- KEEP KELLER COGAN!!
MrOctane89 September 04, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Mary, I couldn't agree with you more! What a GREAT analogy!!! You forgot to mention that MKC is like Dorothy. The Wicked Witch of the West went after her because she was "jealous" of her. Remember her threat to Dorothy? "I'll get YOU my PRETTY!!" It is just like Donna Ehrenberg and her BFF Lorette Adam who constantly go after MKC. Jealousy is such an ugly monster and it sure has gotten hold of Lorette and her cronies, including the MAJORITY OF THE BOE. Clarkstown Community Members, write to the BOE majority, call them and/or get to Board of Education Meetings (next one being 9/8/11) to let them know we don't want them spending our HARD EARNED MONEY on a search firm to replace MKC. They may be the MAJORITY of the BOE however, they respresent the MINORITY of the CLARKSTOWN COMMUNITY. Let your voice be heard!! Let them know the Clarkstown Community does NOT participate in WITCH HUNTS! Let them know we do NOT ACT like they do! THEY are DISGRACING our COMMUNITY with their BULLYING BEHAVIORS! Isn't it interesting that the MAJORITY of the BOE let Mr. Alan Katz know HOW and WHY they spent OUR money ($40,000++) on legal fees but won't let the COMMUNITY know why? Mr. Alan Katz SLIPPED and let that information he was told OUT in the BLOGS. MKC is the VICTIM here, not the students, staff, district or community.
MrOctane89 September 04, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Let the MAJORITY of the BOE know WE WANT KELLER-COGAN! Check out her accomplishments yourself at www.keepkeller-cogan.com The MAJORITY of the BOE don't want YOU to know just HOW MUCH she has DONE for CCSD!! Check it out for yourselves.
Kelly Castel September 05, 2011 at 03:14 PM
We've had a democratic president for over two years now, if no child left behind was a mandate of George Bush why has it not been repealed by our current president? I for one don't believe any money should be wasted on searching for a new Superintendent, when her contract expires it should either be renewed or a new Superintendent hired. Simple as that. Everyone needs to be accountable, parents should not be getting their children "classified" for the additional services only their children benefit from and school administrators should not be encouraging it. We all know many kids in Clarkstown who receive "classifications" that by some miracle correct themselves by the beginning of high school so as not to affect their college applications. This seems to benefit both the school and that student. We need to make sure that the children that go to school in this district live here. Everyone needs to be accountable for their part in the mess we find ourselves in . It seems to me if the schools were crumbling the prior school board really wasted an opportunity not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing fields (which for the better part of two years had no bleachers!) and installing swimming pools. It seems to me that a first grade teacher should not be making the same salary as an AP Chemistry teacher simply because they have been in the district the same amount of time. Like I said everyone, Administrators, teachers, parents and the board need to be accountable.
Rhea Vogel September 05, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Mary - I just love your "Wizard of Oz" analogy!! LOL!!!
Kelly Castel September 05, 2011 at 03:21 PM
BTW I am trying to figure out how someone calls someone out for bigotry while making and innuendo about the Tea Party? And make it sound like its a bad thing... It seems to me that if you do something that's not right be if for your own child or for your own ego it's still not right. Opened up my tax bill, didn't see a huge increase BUT was very grateful that monster bond proposed by the last school board regime failed. Couldn't even imagine what that bill would be.
Phil Leiter September 05, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Well, regards performance, your sources and its conclusions are dated (2007 NAEP results). Of the three “world-class” examples your sources offered, only MA had a greater percentage of students than NYS who met or exceeded NAEP standards of reading proficiency in 2009. Your sources note that, as a result of NCLB, a convergence of standards has formed among the states. In 2007 this convergence trended towards a slightly lower standard, but in 2009 it trended upward. Again, NYS requirements for proficiency standards were made much more difficult in 2010 and 2011. I expect the NAEP report due in the fall will reflect these changes, and this will, in fact, reflect very well upon the CCSD. I find nothing in your sources, or in general, to suggest that CCSD students are performing under sub-par standards. You mentioned taxes, so I note that for this year CCSD spending per student is 18% below the average of all other Rockland districts, and 4% below the statewide average. The local tax levy per student is 29% higher than the state average, but districts average 40% of their money from the state while the CCSD gets 20%. (If the CCSD got the same percentage, our local tax levy would be 25% lower.) Still, that tax levy is 19% below the average of other Rockland districts. Take to task the State of NY about where your tax dollars are going, and I’m right there with you. The CCSD, however, delivers pretty good bang for the buck.
Phil Leiter September 05, 2011 at 09:28 PM
“The Clarkstown of lore”? Perhaps “the Clarkstown of myth”. When I said “training for the tests”, I meant the ELA’s, not the Regents. Let’s look at the Regents. According to CCSD archives, 55% of 1998 graduates earned Regents diplomas, improving to 78% in 2005. Reading some posts here, one would think that recent results would be dismal, but Regents diplomas were awarded to 91% of 2008 graduates, and 94.5% in 2010. Hmm, maybe the Regents aren’t what they use to be. How about the SAT’s? CHSN students scored 9% higher in 2010 than the national average, and 13% higher than NYS overall (CHSS scored 8% and 11% higher, respectively). Bah! If only I had a “world-class” standard to compare with CHSN and CHSS. Maybe Massachusetts? CHSN scored 7% and CHSS scored 6% higher. Perhaps South Carolina? 14% and 13% higher, respectively. Wait! Missouri scored 17% above the national average. North and South are 7% and 8% behind. But, adjusted for the cost of living, Missouri spent 7% more than the CCSD per student. If the CCSD did that, it would add more than $12MM to the budget (yet, per student spending and tax levy would still be, respectively, 13% and 11% lower than the rest of Rockland). I won’t say the CCSD should spend as much as the world-class system of Missouri, but I see significant student performance and fiscal restraint in the CCSD. My sources are the NYSED, the NAEP, the CCSD, and the College Board. What are you looking at?
V Patel September 17, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Teachers in Felix Feast do not come to teach but they do make students feel disappointed and depressed. Some of the teachers show there ego with the students in the class and student have avoided asking question or for their help on the subjects. If this attitude of teachers continues towards the students then it is a must for the school to go down in the list.
Mike Hirsch September 17, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Our Town Newspaper just came out with a pretty thorough comparison of the schools in Rockland County. Clarkstown ranks in the middle.
Phil Leiter September 17, 2011 at 03:03 PM
May I ask, Mike, what was the basis of the comparison?
Mike Hirsch September 17, 2011 at 05:17 PM
It was the state assessment tests. Get a copy of the paper. I thought it was a well researched article. Pearl River and Nanuet scored the best. At first I thought that maybe they had an advantage by being smaller districts, though on second thought, I thought of Apple, IBM, and Toyota, three huge companies known for excellence, so I don't think that the size of a district is relevant. As the "Waiting For Superman" CD states so well: Good teachers make good schools.
Phil Leiter September 18, 2011 at 01:51 PM
I’ll pick up a copy. I have been looking at the NYSED aggregate data, which indicates that smaller districts actually have a huge advantage. An average of just over 700 students per grade took the 2011 ELA’s in the CCSD. I looked at NYS districts with at least 91% of students achieving ELA Level 3-4 in any grade from 3-8 (the CCSD averaged 91% prior to the test changes in 2009). Of the 11 districts that made the cut, only one (Chappaqua, Grade 4) had more than 300 students (305), and the average number was 61. 61! Lower the bar to 81% (the CCSD’s average in 2006), and 113 districts made the cut, averaging 182 students per grade. Only Smithtown (Grade 6 – 82.4%) and Syosset (Grades 5-8, average 83.9%) had 500+ students in each grade. The CCSD, with 4,165 ELA students grade 3-8, is among the 25 largest districts (averaging 4563 students). It is tied for 4th in the ELA average. The number of CCSD students taking the ELA was 6% higher than Nanuet, PR and SO, combined. The percentage of CCSD students Level 3-4 vs. this combination: 72% vs. 74%. The CCSD 2010/11 budget vs. this combination: 15% LESS. Further evidence that the CCSD delivers very good results for the money.
Phil Leiter September 19, 2011 at 09:48 PM
After discovering an error in my Excel filters, I need to make a correction. There were actually 27 districts in 2011 with at least one grade level averaging 91% proficiency. The average class size remains 61.
United for Our Kids September 20, 2011 at 04:45 PM
You make it very apparent in every one of your comments that you do not want to see Dr. Keller-Cogan as our superintendent. Which is fine. We live in America for freedom of speech and the right to have our opinions heard however I would love to read one of your posts that stated factual information rather than speaking about 1 select individual as the cause of every problem. The article did not state our district was disparaged, it stated it was "IN NEED OF IMPROVEMENT" .. if you went to or need to watch the BOE meeting dated Sept. 8th, 2011 you will see for yourself the cause of these handed down poorly made decisions. Dr. Keller-Cogan is the leader behind 7 individuals that make up our BOE. Why not call out some members who insist if it not their way of rectifying the current situation its the highway for the Superintendent. She didn't earn her degrees in education to be able to lead our community for no reason. Question those less educated or sooo knowledgeable in the field in question as to why they fight her every attempt to remedy the situation. Noone should be disregarded as a piece of trash. Not even yourself Tony T.
United for Our Kids September 20, 2011 at 04:58 PM
The question is? Is your child just getting by? Are your basing your opinions on a test given on 1 day out the year? What are the GPA's of these students on the other 179 days? Are they below state requirements? Heaven forbid a child have a bad day, be a poor test taker. be upset about a fight with a friend, these children are excelling. The facts based on 1 day vs. the children's 179 other day quarterly grades/finals are blinded by everyone's hate for KC. I could say I am not even concerned about this issue because I have honor roll children. I am so upset by these perceived test scores... Go to the website.. see the year to year graph showing each grade increases as they follow their school years. How does one define hate??? These posts are terrible and disrespectful. almost every last one. The pun's, swears,allegations and GET RID OF HER slurs are just as bad as the misleading information put out there. Few posts are reputable. I wonder if people who post here conduct themselves this way on a daily basis. Perhaps KC is not the reason our kids are failing , maybe its the ignorance of what they endure.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 18, 2014 at 08:31 AM


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