Last Friday, the State Education Department released the official accountability status for schools across the State. This is the system that labels our schools as Good Standing, Focus or Priority. It is based on a number of determinants related to student progress (and by extension school and District progress), measured over two consecutive years. This latest accountability update is based on the period, 2013-14 and 2014-15 and will take effect in the 2016-17 school year.
The news was good for Buffalo Schools. In fact, the news was very good for Buffalo Schools. The District was notified that the accountability status had changed for a number of schools. And that the change was extremely positive. The list of schools in Good Standing has grown from 15 to 20 and while the Focus schools still number 15, there are now 20 Priority schools, down from 26. Another outcome of the change in status is that ten schools which had been placed in Receivership with the Superintendent are now out of Receivership, while five new ones have taken their place. A chart with all the schools and their designations can be found on the District’s webpage, www.buffaloschools.org.
While I have an issue with the accountability system and its application in determining the status of schools in our District, I will reserve that for a more in-depth article on high stakes tests and Receivership. For now I think it’s appropriate to recognize the concerted efforts of many people, who have worked, within the confines of this system to meet its requisites, and should be acknowledged and thanked for their diligence. I believe it’s been a team effort, inclusive of students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, community partners and Central Office staff.
The news of the improved accountability status comes on the heels of a significant increase in the District’s graduation rate for 2015. A few months ago the State certified our graduation rate as 61%. At the time community leaders and the media hailed this accomplishment. But to be fair, this increase continues a positive upward trajectory in graduations that began in the 2013-14 school year when we saw a 58% rate up from 49% the year before. While the significance of this increase was not overlooked by some of us, the State, main stream media and other community “stakeholders” were less than enthused. Why? Quite frankly, they did not want to have any success attributed to our previous Superintendent, Dr. Pamela Brown.
The academic progress that the District is experiencing at this time did not happen over-night. We can look back to Dr. Brown for providing the leadership that led to these outcomes. Dr. Brown would be the first to give credit to her staff, the students, parents and community stakeholders who support our schools. Yet, the foundation for these academic improvements was set two to three years ago and was supported by organized, sustained and committed planning and implementation of strategies to improve learning and achievement. We can look to petty politics and a punitive mindset that deprived Dr. Brown’s administration of being recognized for the positive momentum she created. Since some (fill in the blank) were so quick to attribute blame for the District’s poor performance to Dr. Brown’s tenure, it is only right that her supporters commend her for the progress made as a result of her Superintendency.
It may be too little and too late, but I ask community members to join me in recognizing the accomplishments of Dr. Brown during her tenure in Buffalo. We are seeing the positive results of her work each and every day. Dr. Brown, thank you for your professionalism; for your competency; for your knowledge; for your grace and dignity under fire; for your perseverance and for your contributions to the Buffalo School District and children.