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Regents extend oversight of Roosevelt High

Roosevelt High School (Jan. 19, 2010)

Roosevelt High School (Jan. 19, 2010) Credit: Karen Wiles Stabile

Roosevelt's high school students have made some academic gains, but state officials Monday voiced disappointment with the district's overall achievement levels as it heads for an 11th and final year under Albany's supervision.

A state report, reviewed by the Board of Regents, concludes that the 2,700-student district has not shown enough improvement to justify lifting direct state control, first imposed in 2002. Consequently, the Regents, as expected, are extending oversight through June 2013 -- the last year they are authorized to do that under state law.

The question now, state officials said, is whether any means can be found to help Roosevelt and other struggling districts short of direct state takeover, which has proved politically unpalatable. Roosevelt is the only district ever taken over by New York State, though other states, including New Jersey, have experimented with the technique.

"Because of the lack of academic progress, I'm concerned what happens a year from now, because then we'll have virtually no superintending authority," said Roger Tilles of Great Neck, who is Long Island's representative on the Regents board. "But we have a responsibility to those kids."

Tilles acknowledged that no clear solution is in sight. Last year, the Regents sought legal authority to place the lowest-performing schools under outside management, but state lawmakers are not expected to approve that idea.

Meanwhile, Roosevelt's academic achievement continues to be ragged. Earlier this month, the state reported that 61 percent of the district's seniors graduated on schedule in the spring of 2011, compared with 54 percent the year before. Still, the latest figure was more than 13 percentage points below the state's average and more than 17 percentage points below Nassau County's.

Stephen Strachan, who was brought in from Los Angeles schools two years ago to run Roosevelt's high school program, said he and his staff continue to plug away at improving academics through innovations such as an extra five weeks of study for all incoming ninth-graders.

"The numbers speak for themselves," said Strachan, who gets generally good marks from state monitors. "We are making gains. I'm trying to accelerate that a little bit."

Elementary-grade achievement continues to be disappointing, the state reported Monday. For example, test results from spring 2011 showed only 24 percent of sixth-graders proficient in English, compared with a state average of 56 percent.

Greater progress was reported in an ongoing $245.5 million project to rebuild Roosevelt's entire physical plant.

While renovation work at the high school is running about a month behind schedule, students are expected to occupy new classrooms there in September.

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