JPS Approves District, Schools Improvement Plans
COVID-19 has slowed efforts by the Jamestown Public Schools District to get itself off a list as needing academic improvement.
School board members on Tuesday approved comprehensive plans for the district and three schools — Ring Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School and Washington Middle School.
In January 2019, the state Department of Education identified 370 schools in need of academic improvement along with 106 school districts as target districts. The first designations were meant to ensure New York’s compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
In New York every school, both public and charter, was scored to determine whether it was in good standing or in need of comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) or targeted support and improvement (TSI).
Based on data from the 2017-18 school year, scores came from accountability indicators such as student achievement in English language arts, math, science and social studies; student readiness for college; graduation rates; and chronic absenteeism.
Schools in New York with CSI and TSI designations were required to complete a needs assessment and develop and implement an evidence-based plan to improve student outcomes.
The state Department of Education had designated JPS as a target district along with Ring, Jefferson and Washington as needing targeted support and improvement.
Due to the pandemic, the state received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to be exempt from making accountability status determinations for the 2021-22 school year. Target districts and schools identified as either CSI or TSI kept their designations.
Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said the designations were “holdovers” from past years.
“We are hoping to move off of that list and we would have hoped that we would have gotten off that list had COVID not happened, meaning that we didn’t even have a chance to get off the list,” he said.
The 38-page comprehensive plan approved for the district includes three priorities: offer lessons in ELA and mathematics that match students’ abilities and allow students to grow; provide safe, supportive, culturally sustaining, and equitable learning environments that promote social and emotional competencies; and create an inclusive and culturally responsive learning environment that focuses on providing all students equitable opportunities.
The 22-page plan for Jefferson includes two commitments: helping students and adults build “trusting relationships” so students become more engaged with learning while also “deepening connections among students, staff and the community.” The other: “strengthening our ability to provide a cohesive, relevant curriculum, with the priority of utilizing targeted interventions, driven by data.”
A focus on the social-emotional well-being of students is noted as a commitment in the 26-page plan for Ring. “Based on the student responses from this school year, students feel safe and enjoy coming to school,” the plan states. “We will, however, focus on strengthening our social-emotional well-being of our students due to the high levels of chronic absenteeism and low average daily attendance.”
The school also looks to deepen connections between home and school. This includes increasing use of TalkingPoints to promote two-way communication; daily contact when a student is absent; increase social media communication; and dismiss face-to-face.
At Washington, the 17-page plan notes that for the last two and a half years, “students have had a loss of academic instruction and learning either through lack of time in school, attendance and isolations. Due to the above we have seen a significant decrease in student performance as well as a significant increase in learning gaps.”
As a result, a focus will be to building “meaningful and trusting relationships between students, staff and families.”
In other school board business:
¯ Whitaker on Tuesday acknowledged the retirement of Dan Martin, a 47-year employee with the school district. Martin was recognized with a certificate at the beginning of the school year where he received a “loud round of applause,” Whitaker said.
¯ the board accepted the donation of two reflection benches from the Class of 1980 in honor of James McElrath Sr. and Marianne McElrath. The benches will be placed at the baseball fields next to Jefferson Middle School.