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Sweeping changes recommended for Geneva CSD

A team of educational experts has recommended sweeping changes at Geneva High School because student performance has not improved enough to meet state standards.The recommendations are contained in the report of the Joint Intervention Team that visited the high school from Feb. 28 through March 3 because the state placed the high school in restructuring status because of its low graduation rate and students’ scores in English language arts.Superintendent Dr. Robert Young said the district’s other three schools – Geneva Middle School and North Street and West Street elementary schools – are all in good academic standing.The team of experts’ two main conclusions are that the school is unlikely to meet annual yearly progress marks “under the current structure and organization” and the district should develop a school restructuring plan that “includes significant changes in staff, organizational structure, leadership and/or configuration to address issues that continue to negatively impact student academic performance.”While the report contained many harsh observations and findings, it did cite two strengths in the school – the library media center and long-standing community partnerships.Basically, observed Dr. Young, “the state is saying, ‘We have an opportunity to make some serious changes to improve our results.’ ”And, Dr. Young added, “the school is actually very close to being back in good standing. If the school meets the state standards this year and next as measured by student achievement testing, the high school would be in good standing in the fall of 2012.“The solution is there and it is with the staff that’s there now,” said Dr. Young. “They can fix this with our help. We have to adjust programs to meet the needs of the students we have. The changing needs of our students need to be responded to and we need to make those changes.”In a 10-page report, which is available on the district’s web site at www.genevacsd.org, the intervention team recommended: – Restructuring the school’s entire leadership team. – Insisting on higher expectations for the faculty, staff and students. – Taking concrete steps to eliminate tracking, including courses extended over two years instead of one. – Adopting an instructional framework using research-based best practices, including optimal use of instruction time and data analysis for improved student learning. “Teaching and learning is an interplay between the giver and the receiver, but doesn’t end there,” Dr. Young said. “We need to establish relationships with the students. The students need a supportive and genuine relationship with an adult at the school.” Dr. Young observed that there are really good teachers at the high school. “There are absolutely pockets of excellence and we need to extend those successes to be building wide.” – Making improvements to the Academic Intervention Services program, including extended contact time for at-risk students. Dr. Young explained that this already is under way, with the 21st Century after-school program, and in using the Sylvan Learning Center for Regents and SAT prep instruction – Increasing early intervention options for at-risk students that include restructuring guidance counseling and other student support services. Dr. Young said that a task force began the counseling review last year. The curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade is now being rewritten. Other student support services include psychological, special education, and social work. – Reviewing the Code of Conduct and insisting on consistent implementation by all faculty and staff. “It’s confusing to students if the code is not uniformly enforced by all for minor, moderate and major infractions,” Young said. – Conducting staff evaluations that ensure teachers’ use of best practices and engagement of students. – Restructuring course offerings, including living environment before earth science by 2012. – Improving the transition from middle school to high school to create more transfer of credits. This would involve more high school course work in eighth grade. – Adopting a school-wide literacy initiative. – Evaluating special education placements to increase mainstreaming. – Completing building maintenance improvement by Sept. 1. – Monitoring for continuous improvement. Dr. Young said the University of Rochester would be involved with mentoring and coaching of administrators. Dr. Young said Lawrence Wright, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, would lead the development of the restructuring plan. Wright was a member of the Joint Intervention Team.Wright said there has been discussion about a dress code for students and adults. He also stressed the value of the involvement of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in developing a structure for college and career readiness.The intervention team looked closely at attendance and achievement data as it related to students and teachers. They reviewed graduation records for three years, especially related to subgroups of students, such as African American, Hispanic Latino, students with disabilities, Caucasian and economically disadvantaged.The experts also examined how individual teachers’ students did on exams and whether all students had access to all of the subjects they needed to study to determine whether or not a bias or inequity existed.The Joint Intervention Team was led by an educational expert and made up of a State Education Department (SED) representative and regional and local school officials.Dr. Stephen Uebbing, a former Canandaigua City School District superintendent and New York State Superintendent of the Year, who has been working on the Geneva district’s strategic plan, led the intervention team. Uebbing is currently an associate professor at The Warner School for Education Reform at the University of Rochester. Assisting were the following educational experts: – English as a Second Language Specialist Paul Tucci, professional development coordinator for ESL at Monroe BOCES #2; – Urban Education Specialist Shaun Nelms, chief of schools, Rochester City Schools; – Turnaround Specialist Susan Meyers, principal, Greece Odyssey High School; – Literacy Specialist Laurie Andres-Amis, literacy coordinator, Greece Odyssey High School; – Math Specialist Cheri Modeen, math coach at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES; – State Education Department representative Casey Jakubowski; and – Geneva District Representative Lawrence Wright, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

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