Restructuring Ahead For Geneva High School

GENEVA, NY ­ With three of the Geneva City School District’s four schools in good academic standing, the focus is now on improvements at Geneva High School.The New York State Education Department (SED) has placed the high school in “Restructuring” status for failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for six years.Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Young, Principal Bill Rotenberg, Gene McNamara, director of pupil personnel services, and Lawrence Wright, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, traveled to Albany on Nov. 10 for a briefing on the restructuring process by the state director of school improvement.The high school is in restructuring because of its low student scores in English language arts. Young said students’ test scores in secondary literacy have improved annually over the past six years, but haven’t met state standards, which also have increased each year.The restructuring process will be led by a Joint Intervention Team that will identify the causes of poor student achievement and make recommendations to fix the problems.”I welcome an external review” Dr. Young said. “Our staff and district have been unable to come up with solutions for these persistent achievement problems in the high school. Accountability is good.”The district’s other three schools ­ Geneva Middle School and North Street and West Street elementary schools ­ are in good academic standing.The high school’s problems are in the following sub-groups of students: English language learners; students with low socioeconomic status; students with disabilities; and African-American and Hispanic-Latino students.Young explained that schools don’t get a passing grade if just one sub-group of students doesn’t meet the state standard. GHS is in a similar situation to that of schools in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Utica and other upstate city school districts. Sixty percent of the restructuring schools are in New York City.”Were an urban setting in a rural setting,” said Young. In his five years here, the number of free and reduced price lunches, an indicator of poverty, has increased from 42 percent to 62 percent. “The pressure of poverty works against us,” said Young, “but it’s not an excuse. For those students for which school has significant meaning, they’re doing fine. You can get a great education at Geneva High School, but not if you don’t take it seriously. We have to demand more from families and students.”Young has asked Dr. Steve Uebbing, who is currently advising the Geneva school district on Strategic Planning, to lead the intervention team coming to Geneva on Feb. 28 to March 4, 2011. Uebbing, a former superintendent of the Canandaigua City School District, is now with the University of Rochester’s respected Warner School of Education. Also on the team will be Casey Jakubowski from the State Education Department, Assistant Superintendent Wright, specialists in English Language Arts, Math and English Language Learners and data specialist Tony Tripolone of BOCES.The team will spend five days in Geneva examining data assembled between now and the visit and visiting classrooms to observe and talk with teachers and students at the high school.They will assess the high school’s educational program in seven categories: curriculum; teaching and learning; school leadership; infrastructure for student success; collection, analysis and utilization of data; professional development; and district support. Next they will make recommendations that will lead to the development (or modification) of a school restructuring plan.”Always ask Œwhy to make sure you have drilled down to the point where you have identified the causal factors,” the State Education Department advises in paperwork explaining the intervention process.”Well make the adjustments we need to,” said Young. “I welcome the collaboration to ensure better results for our kids. Our dilemma is we have to raise our expectations and demand more from our families and students ­ and engage them in the teaching and learning process. Our obligation is to meet students where they are and help them progress as far as they can go, even those who don’t have the resources some students do.””It all comes down to teaching in the classroom and how we motivate the staff,” Young said.

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