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Long IslandEducation

State: 21 LI schools must boost poor performance

New York State Commissioner of Education, John B.

New York State Commissioner of Education, John B. King, spoke to teachers and administrators of the Uniondale school district at Uniondale High School in Uniondale. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Twenty-one Long Island schools within seven districts must develop comprehensive plans to improve because of poor academic performance, state officials said Thursday.

The schools were all in the Central Islip, Hempstead, Huntington, Manhasset, Roosevelt, South Country and Wyandanch districts and have been identified as "focus" or "priority" under the state's new classification system.

Focus districts and focus schools had both low performance and lack of progress in English-language arts and math, or low graduation rates for certain racial and ethnic groups, low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities, the state said.

Districts were also classified as focus if they had one or more priority schools, which are "among the lowest 5 percent in the state in terms of combined English-language arts and mathematics performance that are not making progress," or "have graduation rates below 60 percent for the last several years," according to the state Education Department.

Another 67 Suffolk and Nassau schools were classified as "reward schools," commended for their academic achievement. These schools are invited to compete for up to $150,000 in grants, officials said.

The classifications were based on data derived from student test scores in the years 2009-10 and 2010-11.

The money will come from the federal Race To The Top program -- New York won $700 million in the competitive funding.

Reward schools "have made the most progress" or "have the highest achievement in the state, and do not have significant gaps in student achievement that are not being closed."

Seventy districts statewide are focus districts and 496 schools have been classified as focus schools. Another 221 schools across the state were identified as "priority" schools while 250 were in the "reward" category, officials said.

The state formerly classified schools and districts as needing improvement, under corrective action or restructuring. But New York's Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver -- which freed schools from some of the standards set by the No Child Left Behind education policy -- called for the end of the state's old classification system.

If the focus and priority schools and districts do not improve their performance, the state education commissioner could close them.

But closure is a last resort, state officials said.

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