Two Beacon Schools Flagged for Improvement

State says test scores show insufficient growth

Two Beacon schools — Sargent Elementary and Rombout Middle School — have been targeted by the state as needing improvement based on the year-end test scores of African American students in 2017-18 and 2018-19. 

The schools were identified by the state Education Department in February, but the Targeted Schools for Improvement (TSI) program, which was launched in 2019, was paused a few weeks later at the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Both schools must now create action plans using data culled from surveys and focus groups, while the district must design a plan to support that work, Superintendent Matt Landahl told the Beacon school board on Monday (Nov. 9). 

The school board must approve the plans, which may include measures such as staff development, new learning materials or assisting specific students, before they are submitted to the state in January.

If you look at the district’s diversity statistics, “we have disproportionality in just about everything we do,” Landahl said. “We’re starting to close the gap in some areas, but we have a long way to go. This is an opportunity to get some help with that.”

The schools and district will each receive $50,000 (for a total of $150,000) from the state to help cover the cost of the work. 

There were 118 African American students at Rombout, or 18 percent of its enrollment, during 2018-19, and 22 African American students at Sargent, or 8 percent of its enrollment. 

Statewide, the Education Department has identified 125 schools, including several others in Dutchess County, for the program, and 245 schools for its Comprehensive Support and Improvement program. Schools in the CSI program are monitored by the state; TSI schools are self-monitored by their district. 

On Monday, Landahl said it’s challenging to gauge where African American students at the schools stand because the test scores cited by the state are several years old. 

In addition, the rate at which parents and guardians decline to have their children take the annual state tests is more than 30 percent at Rombout and between 20 percent and 30 percent at Sargent. The Education Department canceled year-end tests last spring but said they will resume in 2021. If they do, Landahl predicted that opt-out rates would be high.

There will be Zoom meetings to go over next steps for Sargent on Nov. 16 and for Rombout on Nov. 17. The principals of both schools are expected to attend the Dec. 14 school board meeting to discuss the testing data.

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