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46 Queens schools need academic improvement

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The nation’s most ethnically diverse borough seems to be having a little problem teaching its students English.

Last week the state Education Department released its list of city public schools that, according to the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act, need academic improvement.

Schools identified as failing or not making enough academic progress under the federal act must give students the opportunity to transfer to better schools within a district or offer tutoring or other supplemental educational services. The federal legislation only affects districts which receive federal Title I funding.

In Queens, 46 schools were identified as “in need of improvement” by the state, and more than half of those schools were cited for academic failure in English Language Arts.

Bill Hirschen, a spokesman for the Education Department, said schools are placed on the list in specific subjects because of failing test scores for three years and/or a lack of “adequate yearly progress” toward improving those scores.

“What it means is that for three years in a row that school did not meet the state standard,” Hirschen said. “It’s definitely a function of test scores.”

The only district in the city that escaped scrutiny under the federal legislation was northeast Queens’ School District 26, which is traditionally the top performing school district in the five boroughs and is also the only district in the city that does not receive federal Title I funding. Title 1 monies are designed to improve the academic record of the disadvantaged.

Hirschen said Bayside’s School District 26 is in the minority statewide, where out of approximately 715 school districts, about 645 receive Title I monies.

The goal of the federal legislation, which was touted by President George W. Bush as a necessary education reform, is to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education,” according to the text of the law.

Hirschen said the federal bill bolsters the higher academic standards New York began requiring in 1999.

“They don’t supersede the state,” Hirschen said. “They complement what New York state has been doing for four years.”

The state list focuses on fourth- and eighth-grade English Language Arts and mathematics — which are used as benchmark grades under the state’s higher academic standards — and includes the borough’s five SURR schools, or Schools Under Registration Review. A spokeswoman for the city Department of Education said SURR schools are identified as such because of little-to-no academic progress, and are subject to closure by the state.

Queens schools on the list may run into trouble meeting the No Child Left Behind provision, which requires failing schools to allow students to transfer to better schools within their district, because the borough has the most overcrowded classrooms in the city. Schools also can provide services such as tutoring, which may be one way the borough’s schools can satisfy the federal requirements.

In a news release last Thursday, state Education Commissioner Richard Mills said the goal of the act was in line with state standards.

“Five years ago the Board of Regents began to require that all students must receive extra help if they need it,” Mills said. “The federal law expands this requirement and allows many parents to choose who will provide some of that help.”

Hirschen acknowledged the borough’s overcrowding situation and said while school districts may not be able to offer “school choice” to students in failing districts, they had other options.

“They need to at least make the attempt and document what effort they have made” in helping students, said Hirschen, who identified both tutoring and after-school programs as possible supplemental services.

The No Child Left Behind Act uses a standard of academic progress to measure how schools are failing or succeeding in providing a “high-quality” education.

In all, 29 Queens schools in every district except School District 26 were on the list for English Language Arts, four schools were cited for mathematics, and eight schools were on the list for both subjects.

The borough’s five SURR schools, three of which are in School District 27 in Ozone Park and one of which is in Rosedale’s School District 29, are on the list. The fifth Queens SURR school is a chancellor’s school, PS 40, in Jamaica.

In addition to PS 40, Queens schools on the list include: Dist. 24’s PS 89, PS 199, IS 5, IS 61, IS 77, IS 93 and IS 125; Dist. 25’s PS 201; Dist. 27’s PS 42, PS 43, PS 45, PS 104, PS 108, PS 155, PS 183, PS 197, PS 223 and PS 225; Dist. 28’s PS 140, MS 72, and JHS 217.

In Dist. 29, schools include PS 34, PS 37, PS 52, PS 116, PS 134, PS 136, PS 147, IS 192 and IS 238; Dist. 30’s PS 78, PS 84, PS 92, PS 112, PS 127, PS 148, IS 10, IS 126, IS 141, IS 145 and IS 204. Far Rockaway High School and the Arts and Business High School are also on the list.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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