Two Long Island middle schools identified as “struggling” under the state receivership program aimed at turning around failing public schools have made progress toward escaping the designation, according to state Education Department data released Tuesday.
Under the 2015 receivership law, Milton L. Olive Middle School in Wyandanch and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead were given two years to show “demonstrable improvement” or risk having the state appoint an independent receiver to control the schools.
The Wyandanch school made 83 percent demonstrable improvement in the 2015-16 school year, while the Hempstead school improved by 57 percent during the same time frame, the agency said. Scores are based on academic benchmarks set by district and state officials, with the criteria varying by district.
The Wyandanch school met nine of 12 benchmarks, including those for school safety; chronic absenteeism; teacher attendance; providing 200 hours of quality extended-day learning time; suspension rate; family and community engagement; and scores for English Language Arts, math and science exams.
Requirements that the district has not met include benchmarks for test scores on the ELA and math in grades 3 through 8.
Wyandanch Superintendent Mary Jones attributed the school’s remaining challenges to the need to adhere to Common Core academic standards and the moving of all fifth-graders to the middle school from Martin L. King Jr. Elementary School.
“They had difficulty adjusting,” Jones said. “I think it was a little bit overwhelming for them.”
Jones added, “The credit goes to the teachers and the principals and the administrators, who are doing an excellent job in keeping the needs of the students, and demonstrable achievement goals, in mind.”
Hempstead’s Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School met six of 11 academic requirements, including for school safety; the school suspension rate; and chronic absenteeism. Missed requirements included categories related to teacher attendance, and scores for math, science and English Language Arts exams in grades 3 through 8.
Hempstead officials did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
Statewide, schools that had been identified as “struggling” on average met 68 percent of their benchmarks, and 56 of 62 districts met at least half their requirements, officials said.
The receivership law, adopted in April 2015, was the state’s first significant attempt to intervene in local school management since 2002. Schools identified as “struggling” have fallen short of standards for three consecutive years, while those named as “persistently struggling” have failed to meet state and federal standards for at least 10 years.
“I am encouraged that so many schools are showing signs of progress. Their improvement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the teachers and administrators, as well as the determination of the students and their families,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said in a news release announcing the results. “But we know there is still much work to be done at every one of these schools — and the state Education Department will continue to help support them in their turnaround efforts.”
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, in the release, said her office and the Board of Regents “will continue our efforts to help get all of these schools — and all of their students — on a path toward success.”
State officials announced in October that Hempstead High School, which was named as “persistently struggling” in 2015, had made “demonstrable improvement.” The persistently struggling schools had one year to show such progress to avoid the appointment of a permanent receiver.
Statewide, the Education Department named 62 “struggling schools” and 10 “persistently struggling” schools. The struggling schools will receive a “demonstrable improvement” determination in the 2017-18 academic year, based on their performance in the current school year.
In February, several Long Island schools were added to the state’s list of “priority” schools: Charles A. Mulligan Middle School in Central Islip, Franklin Elementary School and Jackson Annex School in Hempstead, and LaFrancis Hardiman and Martin L. King Jr. elementary schools in Wyandanch.
If they do not improve, those schools can be identified as falling under the receivership law’s provisions within three years of the “priority” designation.