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State: Freeport district, school regain good academic standing

The district appealed the low ratings given by the state in January and the Education Department consented.

Students arrive at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School

Students arrive at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School in Freeport on Nov. 13, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY — Freeport’s 6,800-student school district and its 1,040-student Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School have regained their good academic standing lost a month ago, state and local officials announced Monday.

Jubilant local school administrators said early Monday that the district had appealed low state academic ratings assigned under a new, nationally required accountability system, and that the state Education Department under Commissioner MaryEllen Elia had consented. Elia aides later confirmed the appeals ruling.

“We are proud of all we have accomplished, and we will continue to build on that success to ensure all students reach their potential,” Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said in a prepared statement.

State education officials, who spoke on background, added that the appeals ruling was based on additional data supplied by Freeport after the initial ratings were issued. Freeport’s upgraded status will be revised on the department’s website and in other records in the months to come, those officials said.

The Freeport system and Atkinson Intermediate were among 15 districts and 34 individual schools, respectively, in Nassau and Suffolk counties that were listed on Jan. 17 as needing academic improvement. The ratings, issued by the state in compliance with federal law, covered a total of 106 districts and 370 schools statewide.

State education authorities, asked Monday if any other school systems had won appeals, said they would need more time to check their records.

The new ranking system, one of many used over the years in an effort to boost academic achievement, complies with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, signed into law with bipartisan support in 2015.

Under the law, schools are designated as needing Comprehensive Support and Improvement if their academic weaknesses are widespread among students, or as needing Targeted Support and Improvement if their problems are more limited. Atkinson Intermediate initially was identified as a CSI school, and Freeport as a Targeted District.

Sanctions on districts and schools designated as CSI and TSI are relatively light in the first years of enforcement under the new system — essentially limited to drafting improvement plans and showing yearly progress in boosting student achievement.

However, Roger Tilles of Great Neck, who represents Long Island on the state’s policymaking Board of Regents, noted during a board meeting Monday that poor academic marks can have psychological and economic impacts that go well beyond any official penalties.

“There are consequences to being placed on the lists, as many superintendents have told me, in the way a district is looked at by its residents and by those who may be thinking of moving in,” Tilles said.

The state’s new ratings are the first that take into account the number of students boycotting state tests, as well as other factors such as scores in English, math and science, class attendance and success in advanced courses. That has made the ratings especially controversial on Long Island, where boycotts have swept up about 50 percent of eligible students in grades three through eight.

Federal law requires at least 95 percent of eligible students to be tested annually in English and math.

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