Monday afternoon a reporter from News Channel 13 visited our school to interview me about the Business First ranking of 84 area schools. The ratings of schools are based strictly on three different achievement factors: 10% of the ranking is based on the graduation rate over the last 4 years; 50% of the ranking is based on state regents exam scores over the last 4 years; and 40% is based on the Math and ELA scores in grades 4-8 over the last 4 years. Heatly was ranked 80th of the 84 school districts.
The level of performance portrayed in the ranking is unacceptable. However, 4 years ago (when Business First began collecting data for this report) our school system was identified by the state as a “school in need of improvement.” Since then, the combination of learners, parents, and staff members working together have lifted the school above the standards to the point we have been designated a “school in good standing.” Our improvement is not reflected in this ranking.
It’s interesting that Business First published their findings based on achievement measures alone, because the State Education Department and the governing Board of Regents have determined that the new evaluation system for public schools and teachers across the state is based on growth as well as achievement. Last year was the first year using this "growth" format in grades 4-8.
Instead of a focus on achievement as a singular gauge of performance of teachers and learners, the state has adopted a sophisticated program of evaluation that identifies how much each individual has grown during the course of a school year. This system recognizes that all learners do not arrive at the starting line (Kindergarten, or the first day of school each year) with the same learning experiences, opportunities, or resources. Instead, the new evaluation system uses a specific testing format designed to measure the progress of each individual as they advance year to year. It’s no longer enough to simply identify where the learner is at the end of the year, but to examine how much they have grown over the course of the year.
The New York State Education Department reviewed test data from every public school with grades 4-8 and determined that Heatly received the ranking of “effective” for the rate of growth demonstrated by the learners. This is the second highest rating a school can receive. So, as you can see, achievement tells a very different story than growth because it does not reveal the impact a particular teacher (or school) has on the learners in their class (or school).
This notice is not meant as an excuse, but rather, an explanation. We have been involved in efforts to improve our achievement levels and overall effectiveness. We have increased our efficiency by coordinating professional growth activities with the state curriculum and assessments. Our staff is focused on providing opportunities for all learners. Our rating by the state this year as an "effective" school is proof of our progress and growth.