Hempstead school board officials on Monday announced Hempstead High School and Alverta B. Schultz Middle School have been elevated to academic good standing after decades of state oversight.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca, Steve Pfost

After decades of languishing on the state's needs-improvement list, Hempstead's high school is being elevated to academic good standing, and so is the district's middle school, local officials announced. 

School board President Randy Stith, Superintendent Regina Armstrong and others celebrated their schools’ new status at a Monday news conference where six students symbolically tore up “Receivership” signs. Receivership is one of the state’s terms for schools required to submit to extra monitoring of their academic progress.

"It's an honor to be part of this," said Nashlie Morales, 17, a 12th-grader and student government president, who joined classmates in ripping signs to confetti and tossing remains in the air.

Hempstead High boosted its status largely by improving graduation rates over six years. Stith kicked off Monday's event with a salute to successive waves of 12th-graders who made this possible. 

"Hempstead did not give any grades for free — they earned it," the board president said. 

The first word of the academic upgrade came at a Wednesday board meeting, where jubilant administrators and board trustees applauded what they described as the lifting of most negative state "accountability" ratings that have troubled Nassau County's largest K-12 school system for more than 30 years. 

"What a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment!" Armstrong said. "We are no longer underdogs, and we're not going to accept that label ever again." 

Hempstead is the only district on Long Island assigned a state-appointed monitor to help improve students' academic performance, financial management and other operations in a comprehensive way.

Hempstead High has registered particular gains in graduation rates, which have steadily risen to 86% in 2022 after falling below 40% in 2017. 

"This is a great day for Hempstead," said the school's principal, Stephen Strachan.

Until now, both Hempstead High School and the district's Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School had been designated as schools undergoing Comprehensive Support and Improvement, or CSI. That is a term applied by federal and state authorities to schools falling in the bottom 5% academically. 

Hempstead officials said, however, that they were recently advised by the state's Department of Education that CSI ratings for the two schools would be erased as of July 1, with the start of the 2023-24 school year. At that time, local officials said, the high school and middle school would be placed in a new status known as Local Support and Improvement, or LSI. That is a term applied to the majority of schools that operate effectively and were previously identified as being in academic "good standing." 

All this means that six of seven district schools now are in the effective category or soon will be, Armstrong said. She added that the only exception is the district's Joseph McNeil Elementary School, which will move down a notch to the CSI bracket, because it has failed to produce an acceptable level of academic growth among about two dozen special-education students. 

Along with respectable ratings for most of its schools, Hempstead also is obtaining millions of dollars in extra state financial aid that is allowing it to increase offerings of college-level Advanced Placement courses and other programs. Morales told Newsday, for example, that she has already completed three AP courses and is taking six more this year, with the help of Saturday tutoring provided in cooperation with Hofstra University. 

Morales aims at a career in health care management, and has been accepted for admission by a dozen universities so far. 

"It's very helpful doing this after school hours when you have to prepare for AP courses, honors courses or tests," the 12th-grader said in reference to tutoring. 

Hempstead's announcement Monday is the first of what is expected to be a series issued by school districts on the Island and across the state. State Education Department officials said Thursday that they recently completed an update of academic ratings for schools and districts, and that ratings would be posted publicly on an agency website later this month or in early April. 

Meanwhile, the state is allowing districts to announce such changes on their own. Ratings are assigned to schools under complex rules outlined in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015, and in an earlier statute approved in 2001.

Until recently, New York State froze its ratings, due to disruptions of school schedules by the COVID-19 epidemic. As a result, 61 schools and 34 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties were listed as low achievers for an extended period of more than two years. 

After decades of languishing on the state's needs-improvement list, Hempstead's high school is being elevated to academic good standing, and so is the district's middle school, local officials announced. 

School board President Randy Stith, Superintendent Regina Armstrong and others celebrated their schools’ new status at a Monday news conference where six students symbolically tore up “Receivership” signs. Receivership is one of the state’s terms for schools required to submit to extra monitoring of their academic progress.

"It's an honor to be part of this," said Nashlie Morales, 17, a 12th-grader and student government president, who joined classmates in ripping signs to confetti and tossing remains in the air.

Hempstead High boosted its status largely by improving graduation rates over six years. Stith kicked off Monday's event with a salute to successive waves of 12th-graders who made this possible. 

         WHAT TO KNOW

  • Hempstead High School has won a satisfactory academic rating from the state, after more than 30 years of struggle.
  • Six of seven schools in the Hempstead district, Nassau County’s largest K-12 system, will have satisfactory ratings as of July 1.
  • Local school officials acknowledge there’s more improvement to be done, while adding that teachers and students can take pride in accomplishments so far.

"Hempstead did not give any grades for free — they earned it," the board president said. 

The first word of the academic upgrade came at a Wednesday board meeting, where jubilant administrators and board trustees applauded what they described as the lifting of most negative state "accountability" ratings that have troubled Nassau County's largest K-12 school system for more than 30 years. 

"What a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment!" Armstrong said. "We are no longer underdogs, and we're not going to accept that label ever again." 

Hempstead is the only district on Long Island assigned a state-appointed monitor to help improve students' academic performance, financial management and other operations in a comprehensive way.

Hempstead High has registered particular gains in graduation rates, which have steadily risen to 86% in 2022 after falling below 40% in 2017. 

"This is a great day for Hempstead," said the school's principal, Stephen Strachan.

Until now, both Hempstead High School and the district's Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School had been designated as schools undergoing Comprehensive Support and Improvement, or CSI. That is a term applied by federal and state authorities to schools falling in the bottom 5% academically. 

Hempstead officials said, however, that they were recently advised by the state's Department of Education that CSI ratings for the two schools would be erased as of July 1, with the start of the 2023-24 school year. At that time, local officials said, the high school and middle school would be placed in a new status known as Local Support and Improvement, or LSI. That is a term applied to the majority of schools that operate effectively and were previously identified as being in academic "good standing." 

All this means that six of seven district schools now are in the effective category or soon will be, Armstrong said. She added that the only exception is the district's Joseph McNeil Elementary School, which will move down a notch to the CSI bracket, because it has failed to produce an acceptable level of academic growth among about two dozen special-education students. 

Along with respectable ratings for most of its schools, Hempstead also is obtaining millions of dollars in extra state financial aid that is allowing it to increase offerings of college-level Advanced Placement courses and other programs. Morales told Newsday, for example, that she has already completed three AP courses and is taking six more this year, with the help of Saturday tutoring provided in cooperation with Hofstra University. 

Morales aims at a career in health care management, and has been accepted for admission by a dozen universities so far. 

"It's very helpful doing this after school hours when you have to prepare for AP courses, honors courses or tests," the 12th-grader said in reference to tutoring. 

Hempstead's announcement Monday is the first of what is expected to be a series issued by school districts on the Island and across the state. State Education Department officials said Thursday that they recently completed an update of academic ratings for schools and districts, and that ratings would be posted publicly on an agency website later this month or in early April. 

Meanwhile, the state is allowing districts to announce such changes on their own. Ratings are assigned to schools under complex rules outlined in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015, and in an earlier statute approved in 2001.

Until recently, New York State froze its ratings, due to disruptions of school schedules by the COVID-19 epidemic. As a result, 61 schools and 34 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties were listed as low achievers for an extended period of more than two years. 

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