State: Number of failing schools may double
Albany warns the number of schools it cites for academic failure statewide could more than double this year - a prospect that has many Long Island districts worried they'll be unfairly stigmatized.
Local educators also fear they'll be stuck with high costs of remedial tutoring if their schools wind up on the state's latest list of those "in need of improvement," which is to be released by June.
The annual roll - closely watched by home buyers and others - will be based mostly on results of state tests administered last spring.
In a new report, John B. King Jr., the state's senior deputy education commissioner, estimates the number of cited schools statewide could jump to more than 1,000 - up from 532 posted last year. The report is to be reviewed Monday by the state's Board of Regents at their monthly meeting.
On the Island, some school leaders express dismay. Many wonder where they will get the money for extra tutoring without cutting other services - especially now that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has called for slashing the region's school aid by nearly $250 million. Schools deemed failing are required to turn over some federal aid to parents so they can hire private tutors.
"With all the budget crunches, we're being asked to do more and more," said Edmund Frazier, Bay Shore assistant superintendent for curriculum.
Frazier worries that at least one of his district's schools might be listed as needing improvement, for the first time in the 16 years he has worked there.
Middle Country's superintendent, Roberta Gerold, says her district might have to scrape together money for tutoring by enlarging kindergarten classes or speeding up plans to phase out high school French courses.
"Our dilemma is going to be: What don't we do," Gerold said.
Last summer, the Regents agreed to raise passing scores on tests in English and math for grades 3-8. Under the new standards, students are deemed proficient in those subjects only if test scores indicate they are on track to graduate with high school Regents diplomas and succeed in their first year of college.
That change and others led to dramatic drops in student passing rates, especially among those with disabilities, both statewide and on the Island. Those results will be used to determine schools in need of improvement.
Albany officials said the higher standards would provide a more realistic picture of students' academic achievement, while helping the state win more than $700 million in federal "Race to the Top" money. Local school leaders note that the Island only received 2.3 percent of the money, while New York City got nearly 74 percent.
On Friday, King declined through a spokesman to respond to local protests, or to speculate on how many Island schools might wind up on the "needs improvement" list. However, the recent drop in the Island's test scores was similar to that recorded statewide - suggesting that many local schools could get hit. Currently, 28 Island schools are listed.
King says Washington rejected his agency's request that it be allowed to change its rating system, so fewer schools would be listed in this state.
Justin Hamilton, a U.S. Education Department spokesman, said federal rules date back to the administration of former President George W. Bush, and cannot be changed without Congressional authorization.