Deidre Polow, the New Rochelle BoE and the “Making AYP” Charade

Written By: Robert Cox

DSC_0554.jpgIn a previous article, Deidre Polow and the Significance of “Adequate Yearly Progress”, I asked if readers could explain why Polow brandishes “AYP” like a jedi with a light saber, trying to convince residents that “making AYP” is some sort of significant achievement for her and her fellow Board of Education members. It is actually the exact opposite of what she claims.

Recently released data from New York State shows the full extent of the hollowness of her claims:

Schools making AYP in New York State: 89%
Schools making AYP in Westchester County: 93%
District making AYP in New York State: 95%

At the state level, making AYP means only that New Rochelle is not among the bottom 5% of school districts in New York State. At the county level making AYP translates not being in the bottom 7%. Considering that the New Rochelle school district is one of the 50 most expensive school district in the United States (25 of Westchester’s 37 districts are among them top 50) this is not what most people would consider an indication for getting good “bang for the buck”, one of Polow’s favorite phrases.

The problem for Polow and those at the BoE who want to claim making AYP as if it were some sort of achievement is that AYP is a term derived from New York State efforts to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB is not designed to identify schools of excellence as people like Ms. Polow would like the public to believe but rather to identify failing schools. The purpose of identifying failing schools is not to reward non-failing schools but to provide parents a path towards getting their children out of failing schools if those schools identified as failing do not take sufficient correction action within a specified time.

No Child Left Behind requires all public schools to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. Schools which receive Title I funding must make Adequate Yearly Progress in test scores (e.g. each year, its fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous years).

Consequences of Failing to make AYP

Year 1 of Missing AYP: There are no consequences for the first year a school misses AYP.

Year 2 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for a second consecutive year, it is identified as “in need of improvement.” The school must develop a two-year improvement plan in consultation with parents, school staff, and the school district. The plan should address core academic subjects and any specific subjects the school is struggling with. Students enrolled in the school now have the option to transfer to another school within the school district that has not been identified as “in need of improvement.” Priority is given to the lowest achieving students from low-income families enrolled in the school.

Year 3 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for another consecutive year, the school must continue to offer students the option to transfer to another school, and must offer tutoring and other “supplemental education services” to students.

Year 4 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for a fourth consecutive year, the school is identified for “corrective action.” Corrective action involves more serious steps to improve the school’s academic performance. Steps can include replacing staff, introducing new curricula, bringing in outside consultants to help with school performance, extending the school day or year, or changing the management structure of the school.

Year 5 of Missing AYP: If, after a full year of corrective action, a school misses AYP for a fifth consecutive year, the school will be placed under “restructuring.” The school must prepare a plan for an alternative governance arrangement, which can include reopening the school as a charter school, contracting management to a private, outside management group, turning the school over to the state for reorganization, or any other changes to school governance that “make fundamental reforms.”

Year 6 of Missing AYP: If the school misses AYP for a sixth consecutive year, it must implement the restructuring plan developed in the prior year.

Where in this does anyone on the school board derive the bizarre notion that making AYP was ever intended to be an honor. The use of the word “adequate” should be a clue. To pretend, as Ms. Polow so often does that making AYP is some sort of government designation of excellence is a total perversion of NCLB and a bastardization of the term Adequate Yearly Progress.

New York State just released the AYP data for 2008-2009. 53 school district failed to meet “AYP”. There are 731 school district is New York State. With calculations even a New Rochelle math department chair could do, this shows that 92.7% of the school districts in New York State met “AYP”. This is hardly a measure of distinction; all it means is that after spending over a billion dollars over the past 5 years, New Rochelle is not among the absolute bottom of the barrel in New York State.

Now the Journal News has put the entire New York School/District Accountability list up on their web site as a searchable database.

Most New York’s schools and districts are in “good standing” for the upcoming 2009-10 school year, but 499 schools and 35 districts have been identified for improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act.

In Westchester, five schools in Yonkers and Mount Vernon are restructuring while 10 schools in Yonkers, White Plains, Port Chester, Mount Vernon and Greenburg were listed as improving. Five high schools in Ossining, Peekskill, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Yonkers were listed as needing corrective action or had a “systemic inability” to make progress. However, most schools and districts in Westchester and Rockland were listed in good standing. All of Putnam’s schools are listed as being in good standing.

This database provides the status of 5,279 schools and districts in the state for the 2009-10 school year. The status was determined by test scores in English, math and science.

If there are 5,279 schools and districts in New York State and if there are 731 school districts then we know there are 4,548 schools in New York State. The Journal News now reports that 499 schools failed to make AYP so 4,049 schools did make AYP; 35 district failed to make AYP out of 731 so 696 districts made AYP. So, 89% of schools in New York State made AYP and 95% of the districts made AYP.

Five schools in Westchester are “restructuring”, ten schools are “improving” and five high schools are labeled as needing corrective action or had a “systemic inability” to make progress for a total of 20 schools listed as not making AYP. The database lists 297 schools in Westchester which means that 277 schools are making AYP or 93%.

7 thoughts on “Deidre Polow, the New Rochelle BoE and the “Making AYP” Charade”

  1. Mrs. Polow – Prehistoric and excessively tanned
    Mrs. Polow is so removed from the reality of New Rochelle that she is a caricature of herself everytime she speaks or sits at board meetings. It is really ashame that people like her get elected when the best representatives or advocates will not partake in school elections. She has no clue what is going on in New Ro. I understand she works in NYC as a social worker. What could she possibly provide in terms of advice or understanding for inner city kids? She’s probably just hanging on for retirement. Speak up for the truth Mrs. Polow. Open your eyes. Speak to real people, not just the ones near your high price wealthy neighborhood that is probably not representative of the diversity you pretend exists in New Ro. I attended a meeting to support a new member in July and I could not help myself. It would be best it you kept quiet and not speak up.

    1. She’s part of the reason…
      The school district is an incredible place to learn and grow. New Rochelle is better for having Deirdre Polow, but of course you’re blog is entitled to it’s opinion.

      1. Part of the reason
        Also , part of the reason NR school’ administration is running unchecked , behind closed doors and failing to exhibit any responsibility to the taxpayer in terms of fiscal restraint or ethics is because of sheep like YOU who have neither common sense or a clue. That’s my opinion , not the blog’s . You must be Deirdre’s pet , or a dolt.

  2. I told you so “Polow Must Go”
    Go back through this site . To the months leading up to the School Board Election and budget vote and remind yourselves what was reported by so many citizens . Like a self fullfilling prophecy , this “person” just insists on proving how out of touch she is in this day and age . This is her claim? That’s all she’s got? WOW ! She has done good in the past , but that was then . She completely refuses to accept any responsibility to those who pay taxes while completely cowtowing to her supporters . It’s toxic and she has outlived her usefullness much in the same vain as an 8 track tape . If you can’t find anything to brag about besides AYP , you’ve completely missed the point of an education system . You’ll might as well tout NR schools as the “district that never uses waterboarding” . Considering we spend almost one quarter of a BILLION dollars , I personally would like to hear something better than ” Look we haven’t been taken over by the state because of our complete incompetence – yet”. There is one other explanation , I guess . She IS so condecending , perhaps she believes that using the AYP mantra is like waving something shiny in front of us commoners since we couldn’t possibly understand what it all means . Good for you Dierdre. Have some geritol and go to bed now .

  3. isn’t she sad!
    it is incredible that a trustee has so little knowledge of what the position implies and so little respect for the students and parents in the district that she would rejoice in such a low level of achievement.

    God help the kids of New Rochelle.

    warren gross

  4. Excellent job Mrs Polow
    AYP shows the great job the teachers, administrators, and board members have done to provide the best environment for our children to learn in!

    1. Ummmm….no…
      AYP shows that our school district does not suck.

      It sounds like you are the kind of person who wants to give Gold Medals to all Olympic Athletes just for showing up to make them feel better about themselves.

      As the article makes clear, the “A” in AYP stands for “Adequate”.

      Maybe this college football season, instead of chanting “We’re Number 1…We’re Number 1” we will see teams chanting “We Are Just Adequate…We are Just Adequate”. Yay!!!!!

      Again, there ARE many fine things going on in the school district and the district should rightly celebrate those good things. Making AYP is not one of them.

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