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LI school districts in LI Index study

Exterior view of Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway,

Exterior view of Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway, Lawrence, NY. Credit: /Pablo Corradi

Identified as "Lakewood"

From the report: Researchers describe this elementary district as the most racially and ethnically diverse they have studied, and also as successful in maintaining high test scores among all groups. Researchers speculate that this may be due to the immigrant status of residents who "are not yet disillusioned with the ideal of the American dream."

However, individual schools reflect a high degree of racial and ethnic segregation. Two have student populations about half-white; the other four schools are less than 10 percent white. Some schools are almost entirely black and/or Latino, while others are mostly Asian, which in Elmont means primarily of Indian descent.

From the district: School officials did not return calls or written requests for comment.

Identified as "Clearview"

From the report: District represents in microcosm the demographics of Nassau County as a whole. Enrollment is about 64 percent white, 20 percent Latino, 12 percent black and 4 percent Asian. "Yet, when we scratch beneath the surface a bit more, we see that there are limits to the degree of support for 'diversity,' " the report said.

Middle school students are tracked into classes on two academic levels, based mostly on elementary teachers' recommendations. This divides students along racial lines, with most blacks and Latinos in the regular track, most whites and Asians in the advanced program. Researchers note, however, that educators are trying to modify the system, and class placement is more "fluid" in high school.

From the district: Long Beach Superintendent Robert Greenberg said the district has taken steps to erase disparities.

"We have opened up the process to self-select; there is no prerequisite to get into an honors class any longer," he said. "We have eliminated any tracking in grade six, honors classes no longer exist in grade six, only in seventh and eighth. The sixth grade is heterogeneous . . . and every kid gets exposed to enrichment in grade six.

"And we continue to encourage more and more kids to take the higher-level honors class. We believe . . . eventually we will have an honors curriculum and that is our goal," he added. "The report does say we are addressing it in that way. We have taken those proactive steps to address the issues that were cited there."

Identified as "Grantsville"

From the report: "Many observers have deemed the district to be a complete, dysfunctional failure." The state ordered two schools to be closed due to disrepair, including falling ceilings. This led to overcrowded schools and classrooms. According to one account, the district was using 70 portable classrooms, some of them 20 years old. The preschool program for 4-year-olds is housed on the third floor of a building with no elevator.

The district has experienced an influx of immigrants, mostly from Central America. Between mid-July and mid-September, hundreds of new families line up outside the central district office, trying to enroll their children. Most of these families do not stay more than a year or two, one official said. Despite this influx, researchers found no fifth-grade bilingual classes at one school, because there was no space for them.

From the district: Board of Education president Charles Renfroe said he was unaware of the report and had not seen it, but when told of its contents he said there were some inaccuracies. "We don't have any 20-year-old portable classrooms," he said. "There may be a few that are 15 years old, but there aren't many."

He did say the preschool program was on a third floor but said the district is looking for another location. He also said the district has confidence in its new bilingual superintendent, Patricia Watkins, "who I think is really top flight and is here for a while."

Renfroe said terminology in the report describing the district as poor, black and Hispanic "sounds like bias to me."

Identified as "Belvedere"

From the report: Educators and students "bemoan the level of stress and anxiety students feel to excel in high school." Educators note it is not unusual for high school students to take four or five college-level Advanced Placement courses at one time and to spend four to six hours a night on homework. Educators describe teens who arrive in the morning with coffee or a Red Bull caffeinated beverage in hand, talking about having been up much of the night.

Counselors say students start working on their resumes by seventh or eighth grade by joining the right clubs and teams. Students admit much of their overbooked schedules are merely a means to an end - acceptance to a top college. Many teachers say students cannot accept a grade of B or even A-minus, and often beg to redo an assignment so they can get an A.

From the district: Superintendent Judith Wilansky declined to comment, saying in an e-mail statement: "I cannot comment on Belvedere as I have no knowledge that this fictitious name is meant to represent Cold Spring Harbor."

She did say that in her district, "Our student accomplishments in the academics, arts and human service areas stand on their own merits."

Identified as "Leesburg"

From the report: The district's public school population is diverse - about 43 percent white, 30 percent Latino, 20 percent black and 7 percent Asian. Yet, as of 2009, all but one member of the entirely white seven-member school board sent their children to private schools.

Researchers say one of the board's main agenda items has been a "siphoning off of public funds" to pay for services to private schools. In Lawrence, most such schools are Orthodox Jewish yeshivas. The funding practice, permitted by state laws supporting private education, covers such expenses as special education, textbooks and busing, at a total cost to the district estimated at $20 million in one school year.

Public school students complain of a shortage of guidance counselors, and of buildings and sports facilities in poor condition. The report says this is "yet another example of people with more resources - those who can afford private schools to begin with - getting more, while the mostly low-income students of color in the public schools . . . have less."

From the district: Board vice president Asher Mansdorf said the charge the board is "siphoning" off public school funds for private school education is "completely false." That spending is mandated by the state, he said, and the district is responsible for busing all children that live within the district.

"We are not allocating more and more public funds to private school students," he said. "For the first time in 47 years since the high school was built, we have put more money into fixing the physical plant of the public schools than any other board."

He noted that the district has launched a prekindergarten program for incoming public school students and other programs to boost achievement.


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