The high school graduation rate is up, and students read better. But math scores need a little boost and more students need access to more rigorous courses. That’s the gist of the progress report on the 2011-2012 Goals and Targets of the Saratoga Springs City School District.
The district just completed Year Two of its three-year plan. Superintendent Michael Piccirillo gave a lengthy report at the Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday night. He complimented his predecessor Dr. Janice White, saying it’s a great accomplishment for a district to have solid long-range goals.
“It’s something to be proud of … We’ve done a nice job,” Piccirillo told the eight board members and smattering of staff present at his third meeting as schools chief.
The board also appointed Scott Singer to replace Dr. Joseph Greco for the year as an assistant principal at Maple Avenue Middle School, leading the Hathorn Springs team. Greco moved into a top-level administrative position in the reorganization plan Piccirillo announced earlier this summer.
The district had five overall goals for the past school year: to increase the percentage of students taking “Advanced Placement” and other upper level high school courses; to improve the academic performance of disabled and economically disadvantaged students; to improve reading in kindergarten through third grade; to have more high school students taking technology and science courses; and to encourage more participation in extra-curricular activities, including sports.
“We’ve done excellent work on some of our goals and continue to struggle with others,” Board President Regina M. Gapczynski, a former elementary school principal, said after the meeting.
While the schools have focused on students at both ends of the academic spectrum, they now need to do more for the middle range. And math needs overall improvement, Gapczynski said.
Lack of state or federal mandates for mid-level achievers is one reason they get lost in the shuffle, the board president said. The new state review of teacher performance will force districts to look at the performance of all students.
“I have a ‘Mr. 87’,” said board member Michael Ladd, noting that his own son does fine in school, but fine is not good enough in today’s competitive marketplace. “That was great in 1982, but the bar has been raised. How do you help these kids differentiate themselves?”
The board and superintendent agreed that the next three-year plan (2013-2016) will include focus on middle/upper-middle achievers. New targets for those students could come as early as this school year or the next, as near-term targets have yet to be established.
Some highlights of the 2011-12 report:
--the as-yet “unofficial” graduation rate is 91 percent;
--about 70 percent of high school students tackle advanced courses;
--the individual course failure rate has dropped, except at Maple Ave., where it rose slightly;
--math scores need improvement across the board;
--students with disabilities and economic disadvantages did better than last year;
--90 percent of K-3 students will meet basic literacy “benchmarks,” or standards;
--the district has a pilot program for digital portfolios at the middle and high school as well as Division Street Elementary School;
--the high school’s integrated studies and STEM programs have been successful and will continue;
--more students are participating in extra-curricular and sports activities.
Laura Y. Rappaport has worked as a journalist in and around Saratoga Springs for many years. She covers all things related to education for Saratoga Wire
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