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