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

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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