Principals Present ESSA Improvements To JPS Board

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced his proposed state budget including the tentative amount of state aid budgeted for New York public schools. The proposed amount set aside for the Jamestown Public Schools District left Superintendent Bret Apthorpe suppressing anger.

“It’s hard not to get angry being a champion of children,” Apthorpe said regarding the tentative amount of state aid proposed. “These aid formulas and budgets are intentionally wrapped in mind boggling rationales (that) are purposefully confusing.”

During the superintendent’s report, Apthorpe discussed the outlooks of state aid as it pertains to Jamestown. The district is currently observing a 1.4 percent foundation aid increase from last year. While Apthorpe admitted the proposed amount typically increases by April when the state budget is officially approved, the current number was worrisome. Apthorpe said when considering inflation, the change of aid from 2018-19 to 2019-20 is actually a decrease.

As it stands now, the district would receive a $711,484 increase from the previous year. The 2018-19 school year observed $49,090,520 and the upcoming year will see $49,802,004 support the district if the budget remained unchanged through April.

Apthorpe also pointed to the amount of foundation aid the district feels it is owed after the Foundation Aid Formula was halted in the 2009-10 school year. Apthorpe said the district would receive $8,080,620 more if the state formula was followed this year.

Apthorpe said the amount owed would be put toward hiring reading and literacy officials to improve student performances that the state reviews under the Every Student Shall Succeed Act (ESSA).

Last week, the state Education Department released the new designations for state public schools under ESSA.

At the meeting, principals within the district presented to the board areas of improvement from each school within the district.

School districts can be labeled as target districts or being within good standing. Individual schools are labeled as either Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) or being within good standing.

Jamestown was identified as a target district with at least one school within the district designated as a TSI school for the 2018-19 school year.

Of the nine schools in Jamestown, Ring Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Jefferson Middle School were tagged with the TSI designation. All three of the schools were designated as focus schools under the previous determinations. However, schools like Persell Middle School and Love Elementary School that were previously labeled as focus schools are now categorized as being in good standing.

Chad Bongiovanni, Jefferson principal, said the district is looking to improve composite performances, academic progress and chronic absenteeism of several student subgroups. Melissa Emerson, Washington principal, told the board the district needs to improve upon composite performances, academic progress and chronic absenteeism for all students. Annette Miller, Ring principal, similarly told the board the school is looking to improve upon composite performance for Hispanic students, student growth for certain student subgroups, academic progress for all students and chronic absenteeism for all students.

While some schools moved out of a targeted designation or focus designation under the old system, each school principal still presented areas of improvement from their school. One common theme was chronic absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism is an issue Apthorpe has been continuously vocal about since he began as superintendent in 2017.

ESSA designations are determined by viewing the performances of student subgroups within a school. The evaluated subgroups include members of racial and ethnic groups, low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners. Those subgroups are given a performance score from one to four. Indicators that are considered when compiling the scores include student achievement in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies; student growth in language arts and math; 4-, 5- and 6-year graduation rates; student readiness for college, career, and participation in civic life; acquisition of English proficiency by English language learners; and chronic absenteeism. The chronic absenteeism, English proficiency and college, career and civic readiness indicators are new to the updated system.

Target districts are determined if the school district has at least one school in the district identified as a CSI or a TSI school. School districts can also be labeled as a target districts if they were labeled as focus districts in the 2017-18 school year or had a subgroup that met a TSI identification. Target districts are mandated to develop a District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP) to improve student learning measures by identifying and implementing specific initiatives.

The bottom five percent of schools in terms of performance based on the state indicators are labeled as CSI schools and subject to various state requirements like onsite assessments and data review by an outside team of professionals. Additionally, School Comprehensive Educations Plans (SCEP) must be drafted with community input and be submitted to SED for approval.

For a school to be labeled under TSI, at least one student subgroup has to receive a level one performance score. Schools in good standing have to observe two low-performing years before they can be identified as TSI schools. TSI schools will also develop SCEPs, but are not required to submit them to SED for approval. TSI schools that fail to show improvements over an extended period of time can be designated as a CSI school with increased state intervention.