Lake Placid officials plan to shake ‘focus district’ label
LAKE PLACID – The Lake Placid Central School District is moving forward with a long-term plan to shed its designation as a “focus district.”
Reading specialist Laura Coffin and elementary school psychologist Mel Frazer appeared before the district’s Board of Education last week to discuss the next steps now that a District Comprehensive Improvement Plan is in place. The state Education Department labeled the district a “focus district” last year because a group of special education students in grades 3 through 8 performed poorly on English language arts and math assessments in the 2010-11 school year.
A team of elementary and middle-high school faculty members has been working with state education officials to improve things like district leadership, curriculum development and support, teacher practices and decisions, and family and community engagement.
“So basically, what’s happening is the state is coming, and they’re going to come and review the middle-high school,” Coffin said. “The elementary school is going to do a district-led review, which means that (elementary school Principal Javier) Perez and Mel and I are going to lead the charge and observe some things, and come up with some findings, and sit down and write some reports and send it to the state and see what we can do to get off of focus school status.”
School board President Mary Dietrich said the intent of both school reviews is to observe and evaluate what’s happening in the classroom, and then make recommendations for improvements.
So what will the state be looking for when it visits the middle-high school in May?
“That’s a good question,” Coffin told the board. “The short answer is, they are looking to see: Are we aligned with what the Common Core state standards are saying? Does our teaching align with that? And are we following the plan that this whole committee has created?”
“In theory, if we are aligned (with Common Core standards), then we should get off the list,” school board member Janet Smith said.
Ultimately, improved test scores will decide whether the district remains on the focus list, Coffin said. If two consecutive years of scores meet the minimum state requirements, then the district is removed from the list, she said.
“The test scores come out in the school report card,” Coffin said. “They give you a cut score, and you need to pass that cut score. They look at our special ed population.”
School report cards were supposed to be issued on Nov. 1, 2012. Coffin said she called the state to find out what happened, and learned that the facility where the report cards were kept was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. They are now expected to be issued sometime this spring.
School board member Herb Stoerr questioned how the state is able to establish baseline test scores for special education students.
“I find it difficult to establish a norm for special ed,” he said. “The way I understand special ed is, each case is individual. And all of a sudden you’re talking about a test score for a group.”
Members of the district’s improvement team will travel to New York City in March to learn more about what the state will be doing when it performs its review in May.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or email@example.com.