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LP schools: now a ‘focus district’ after low special ed test scores

September 21, 2012
CHRIS MORRIS , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Central School District has been identified as a "focus district" by the New York State Education Department due to low performance on English language arts and math assessments by two groups of students.

Superintendent Randy Richards said at a Board of Education meeting earlier this month that the state assigns focus district status to a school district when two or more student groups register low results on the state's performance index. In Lake Placid's case, Richards said the designation comes from low test results by two "cohorts" of special education students: one in the elementary school, and another in the middle-high school.

"We're in the company of about 70 other districts," Richards said. "There may be a silver lining in this cloud. ... In the past, I worked in a district that was a school in need of improvement, and it forced us to go back and take a look at the curriculum, our teacher methodology, how we use data, how we use our staff development. We'll do the same thing with this."

Focus districts, according to a press release issued by NYSED, must "develop comprehensive plans to support improvement efforts in identified Focus and Priority Schools.

"Focus Districts were identified as a result of their low performance and lack of progress in ELA and math combined or graduation rates for one of more accountability groups (racial/ethnic groups, low-income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities)," the release said.

Richards said in a letter to parents that the district will "continue to offer our students extra academic help and support through our Response to Intervention and Academic Assistance programs." He said representatives from the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton Board of Cooperative Educational Services will begin meeting with faculty, staff, administration and parents on Oct. 2 to create an improvement plan so the district can get off the focus district list as soon as possible.

The district was required to send letters to parents regarding the focus district status, Richards said.

"Technically, parents are supposed to have school choice," he said. "If your district hits focus status, your kids can opt out to another public school of choice. In the application, they state it has to be a viable option. In my response, I didn't feel there was a real viable option, with the closest schools being 20-some-odd and 10 miles away."

School board member Janet Smith asked if Lake Placid would have to pay tuition to other public schools if its students went there. Richards said the district would have to cover transportation costs and potentially tuition.

"This is basically a very, very negative report card on our district," school board member Herb Stoerr said.

Richards said the focus district status isn't an indictment of the entire school.

"It's a pocket of students," he said.

"It's not saying that we didn't have students that did well," school board member Janet Smith said.

School board President Mary Dietrich said the process of addressing the deficiencies identified by the state will be good for the district to go through.

"It forces you to take a look at, here's the strengths and here's the areas we need improvement in, and what can we do to improve," she said. "So I don't think it's a bad process, either. Not that you want to have that label."

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or



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