District Officials Clarify Appearance on State List
How can it be? How can the Huntington School District, which sends so many of its graduates to top tier colleges, be identified as a "district in need of improvement" by the State Education Department? The label is more than a little deceiving.
"Huntington is a district in 'Improvement Year 1' because we did not make annual yearly progress in English language arts at both the middle and secondary levels for two consecutive years," said Marybeth Robinette, district director of math and testing. "We are in good standing in math, science and graduation rate."
SED listed 1,325 elementary, middle and high schools and 123 entire districts as in need of improvement. "The number of schools and districts that were newly identified for improvement is unprecedented," according to a statement released by SED. "Last year, 102 schools and four school districts were newly identified for improvement. This year the number of newly identified schools increased to 847 and the number of newly identified districts increased to 89."
Woodhull Intermediate School, J. Taylor Finley Middle School and Huntington High School were all placed on the state's "needs improvement" because a limited group of students within each school did not meet state proficiency standards on ELA exams during the 2009/10 and 2010/11 school years. The district's four primary schools are all in "good standing" with the state.
In alignment with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the state divides school enrollments into a variety of sub-groups for reporting purposes. Huntington students in certain grade-level sub-groups failed to meet state "adequate yearly progress" targets.
Huntington School District executives said they are well-aware of where academic performance is falling short of state standards and teachers and administrators are working to bring every student up to and beyond proficiency levels. Individual school and student performance is tracked very closely throughout the year so last week's announcement by SED did not come as a surprise to officials.
"It's important to note that the overwhelming majority of our students are doing well academically," Superintendent James W. Polansky said. "At Huntington High School in particular, most students are well on their way to graduating with Regents and Advanced Regents diplomas."
The district has a number of initiatives in place to address the academic shortcomings and will continue to ramp up the effort over the remainder of the current school year and beyond.
"We have work to do as a district and we are going to make sure it gets done," Mr. Polansky said. "The Huntington community values education and expects every student to perform well. Our faculty and staff share these same core beliefs. We have a wonderful district that offers students outstanding academic and co-curricular programs. We plan on building on those strengths and look forward to the day when every student is reaching and surpassing standards in every area."