DRYDEN, NY – Two schools from the Dryden Central School District and one from Groton were placed on the “Focus Schools” list, indicating that these schools are falling short of one or more accountability goals as set by the state.

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Schools can be placed on the list for low performance and/or lack of progress in English Language Arts (ELA) and math, combined, or graduation rates for one of more accountability groups (racial/ethnic groups, low-income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities).

A letter sent to parents of students from the Dryden Elementary and Middle Schools informed parents that these schools were being placed on the focus schools list due to poor performance in third through eighth grade English Language Arts and Math exams.

A total of 428 schools were placed on this list, statewide, out of the over 4,500 schools in New York. The list also includes Groton Elementary School.

As a result, the schools will be subject to a state review. A team of reviewers from the state visited Dryden Middle school in March, and will be visiting the elementary school in May. The goal of these reviews is to help formulate action steps to address the problems. The reviewers observe classes, as well as speaking directly with parents, students, teachers and administrators during the process.

According to Dryden Superintendent Sandy Sherwood, the district is still waiting to hear back from the state agents on the results of the review. She said that the turnaround time is approximately six to eight weeks, after which the state reviewers will provide their recommendations.

These aren’t the first action plans created for these schools. Both Dryden Middle School and Dryden Elementary School were identified as schools in need of a Local Assistance Plan for the previous three academic years. Despite those plans being implemented, the school still seems to be falling short in some areas, though Sherwood notes that they have been making progress.

As shown by the New York State Education Department’s statistics, the Dryden’s primary trouble seems its difficult with economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. These groups failed to meet the set goals on multiple testing metrics. Economically disadvantaged students also have notably low graduation rates, with 68 percent at four years and 73 percent at five years, whereas the goal is 80 percent.

Sherwood confirmed that the Local Assistance Plans were also geared at helping those particular student populations.

She pointed out that the process for evaluating students with disabilities at the school is somewhat at odds with the state testing methods. She explained that for students with disabilities, the school tries to find the appropriate level of learning that they can, whereas the state tests are strictly age-based. Therefore, a student might be suited for and comfortable with 3rd-grade level work, but if he is at the 4th-grade age, the the student will take a 4th grade test.

Sherwood also said that Dryden has spent a lot time on professional development toward countering the effects of poverty on a student’s education, through alternate learning methods and other approaches. She said she believes this training will be worthwhile since it has broad applications for all types of students, including the students with disabilities.

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Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.