New Rochelle Asst. Schools Superintendent Says Community Cannot Understand “Complexities” of Work of Public Schools

Written By: Robert Cox

On October 6th, Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff used his annual appearance before the school board to respond to criticism from Talk of the Sound regarding our report on the North-South Divide in New Rochelle Schools. A full transcript follows the two part video below (YouTube allows only 10 minute videos and the entire video segment runs 14 minutes so it was split into two parts). We will deal with his rather absurd presentation in a separate post.


Thank you, Mr. Organisciak, Board President Richmond, Vice President Petrone, Members of the Board of Education.

I want to thank you for the opportunity tonight to highlight several of my overarching goals for this academic year which are designed to support the work of the talented teachers and administrators in our district’s ten elementary and secondary schools.

As has been my custom in the past this will be just plain talk with no whistles and bells. My intent over the next few minutes it to expand on several of the themes mentioned in my goals statement a copy of which I will leave and which was included in last Friday’s board packet.

Before I begin those remarks I want to thank those principals and members of their leadership team that have joined us here this evening. Our is a collaborative effort and I am always appreciative of the superb leadership provided in our buildings and grateful for the support the principals have continually shown for the initiatives emanating from my office.

Before we can talk about the coming school year, I always feel it is important to take a look back. Some of this information will be well known to you by this point but it sets the stage for what lies ahead. By any subjective or objective measure, the 2008-2009 school year was the most successful one for the City School District of New Rochelle. Again this year, each of our buildings was recognized as a high-performing school that made significant progress in closing the student achievement gap.

I think it is important to understand this is the highest commendation given to school’s annually by the New York State Education Department. It is not a claim that we make as a District but an affirmation by the University of the State of New York on behalf of the members of the Board of Regents as to what the students in our District have accomplished based on their performance in Grades 3 through 8 State Assessments and on the High School Regents Examinations.

No matter how one feels about the rigors and benchmarks of these assessments it is difficult to deny that these test provide a comprehensive picture of student performance across the district. In fact, for each of our K through 5 elementary schools these results are viewed in 66 different ways. That is to say, the State looks at assessments administered in ELA, Math and Science determines whether the school has met the Accountability Standard of both student participation and performance and finally examines these accountability measures that each of the five ethnic groups, students with disabilities, limited-English proficient students and economically-disadvantaged students. It is only after an elementary school building passes muster on each of these accountability measures that they are categorized as a school in good-standing. So, I think it is fair to say that our schools have been examined, probed, analyzed and, in the case of science, even subjected to lab testing and the reports back seem to conclusively indicate that the patient is in very good health.

Just to offer a few more particulars, results from the English Language Arts and Math tests administered to students in Grades 3, 4, and 5 show that 86% of all children district-wide met standard on the ELA test and 94% of all students district-wide scored performance levels 3 and 4 on the Math test. This is an increase of 8 percentage points on English Language Arts and 7 percentage points in Mathematics over the past two years.

Results from the November Social Studies test administered to 5th Grade students were equally as impressive. As a district, 96% of all students met the State Performance Standards and 56% of these children scored at Mastery Level. It is also especially noteworthy that even with the many ELL (English Language Learners) children in our South End elementary schools who are required to take this language-based exam each of these buildings had 91% or more of their social studies students meeting standard on the Social Studies Assessment.

The results from the Grade 4 Science Test administered in May show a similar level of exemplary achievement. 94% of all students, both General and Special Education, met the State performance standards in Science and a notable 72%, almost three-quarters of all of our students, attained a Mastery Level score which meant that they received 85% of more of the total number of possible points.

But as we know, test scores do not tell the whole story.

This past year the Columbus School established a partnership with Steiner Sports, a New Rochelle business, the largest sports memorabilia company in the country, along with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Westchester County to provide mentors to a group of third grade students who will maintain this relationship with the Steiner employees hopefully for years to come.

Jefferson School launched a film club as part of the school’s Arts and Education Program which involve students in pre-production, production and post-production activities associated with the children creating their own professional-quality videos.

And several Columbus teachers had their (math?) practice featured in a new series of professional developmental DVDs produced by Dr. Kathy Fosno, Director of the Math in the City Program at the City College as part of their core research funded by the National Science Foundation.

Further, this past year, we had larger numbers of children qualify for the district modified Kaleidoscope Programs than ever before and since performance on the New York State assessments is a large part of this selection process this would indicate our most academically-able children continue to perform at the highest levels.

With the expansion of our dual-language program to (garbled) site two years ago and the establishment of the new Italian CILA program last September almost 225 students each year now have the opportunity to emerge from our elementary schools as bi-lingual and bi-literate.

A review of the performance of our students in the secondary level is equally as impressive. On the ELA and Math Assessments administered in Grades 6 through 8, both middle schools exhibited an improved achievement in virtually all grade levels consistent with State trends.

More specifically, on the English Language Arts Assessment, 81% of all students met standard which is an increase of 14 percentage points over the previous year.

Further, on the grades 6 through 8 Math test, 86% of all our middle school students met standard which is a gain of 7 percentage points from a year ago.

Student enrollment of 8th graders in Advanced Science and Math courses was also expanded. The total enrollment of middle school students in the Living Environment course increased to 278 students from 213 a year ago while enrollment in integrated algebra grew to 271 students from 212 the previous year. It should also be noted that all middle school students who sat for these two Regents Examinations received a passing score of 65 or better.

At New Rochelle High School, where there are also 66 accountability measures, students met the accountability standards in secondary level English Language Arts, secondary level Mathematics and for the high school graduation rate.

The school achieved annual yearly progress both for the overall student cohort and each of the require subgroups.

As we learned last week, the enrollment of students in Advanced Placement and Honors courses at the high school continues to climb with the participation of minority students increasing approximately 3 percentage points over the past three years and tabulating this year’s projected enrollment another almost 2.5 percentage points for 2009-2010.

I would suggest that so much of this growth is a direct result of professional development emphasis on differentiated instruction. the springboard initiative designed in conjunction with the College Board that was so ably introduced by my colleague Dr. Diane Massimo several years back and supported by Mr. Conetta and the school’s other building instructional administrators.

Let me be clear, in providing you with the data upon which the designation of all of our buildings as high-performing, gap-closing schools was based there was no suggestion on my part that an achievement gap does not exist in our district nor that we have eliminated it entirely.

What we need to understand and acknowledge, however, is that the existence of a student achievement gap is a national issue not one confined to New Rochelle.

The most recent student achievement data shows that as a district we continue to make significant strides towards addressing the adverse factors which are directly related to student performance. These are factors which are well-known and clearly established in the body of quantitative educational research. In a city school district like ours that primarily include student mobility, poverty, a student’s native language and whether or not a child enters school as a proficient English speaker. It needs to be understood that there is a direct correlation between these factors and low student achievement. So, when we see a variation in performance of various sub-groups in our district or even between schools it is important to recognize that certain sub-groups or schools contain larger numbers of students that are negatively impacted by these conditions therefore before any of us reaches the conclusion that any particular group of children in our city is being underserved wereally ]need to examine the extent to which the other overriding factors such as student mobility, poverty, home language, and English-language proficiency offer a clearer and far more accurate explanation for variations found in student performance. It is based on a consistent record of success taking into account both quantitative and qualitative data that our schools continue to build upon what has worked.

As we enter the 2009 – 10 academic year the greatest challenge for us remains how to avoid the temptation to succumb to the pressure of testing, especially now that the assessments in grades 3 through 8 have been moved from mid-year to April and May and continue to faithfully deliver the rich educational program that has historically served our students so well.

In recent years our efforts to keep teachers focused on the delivery of a standards-based curriculum have led to the development of local learning outcomes and secondary school course descriptions that specify what students should know and be able to do. During the Meet the Teachers Night over the past few weeks updated printed versions of our parent brochures were distributed to families. These brochures are available in both English and Spanish and can also be viewed electronically on our District web site.

In this (prepaid/grade?) 12 supervisory role, I intend to focus this year on strengthening the articulation between grades 5 through 6 and grades 8 and 9. Meeting groups of teachers and instructional administrators I would hope to frame our discussions by examining first what skills and concepts do receiving teachers except that their students will bring either to the middle school or the high school. Second, what concerns do sending teachers have in dispatching students to the next level and third what insight does an analysis of children who do not maintain a record of proficiency in grades 6 and 9 yield as far as identifying elements of our elementary and middle school programs that should be strengthened. Further, in an effort to better coordinate teacher training across the district I intend to continue to work with the Superintendent and members of the district’s professional development committee to insure in our district-wide professional development initiatives benefit from common themes or threads. I expect that we will continue to advance our balanced literacy and (pre?) based math programs in the elementary schools and lend further support to the ongoing emphasis on differentiated instruction and literacy across the content area initiatives in the secondary schools.

Another major focus of my involvement this year will be in the area of foreign language where, as the Superintendent mentioned last week in presenting his goals we (would?) developing a series of recommendations to guide the expansion of foreign language instruction in our elementary schools.

As a district we have been gratified and impressed by the second language proficiency demonstrated by students in our CILA or dual-language programs. But not all children area ready for or are interested in this kind of second language study as elementary school students so we would hope to offer another foreign language development model that will also well prepare children to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding global society that awaits them.

The financial resources provided by the $900,000 foreign language assistance program grant developed by Dr. Massimo’s office with the assistance of Mr. Conetta and our Supervisor of World Languages, Mr. Mendez, will be a foundational piece in designing this initiative. In my discussions with secondary school principals I am aware there is a continuing interest on their part in examining the cluster or house model to insure the benefits of smaller learning communities are being extended to all students. At the high school this review has already taken into account the roles of the house principals and instructional administrators as it pertains to providing supervision support for the teaching faculty in each of the four houses.

Over the past few years I have been struck by a small number of observers from the community who have taken issue with the work of our schools. Frankly, I do not know whether there misconceptions are the result of the complexity of the teaching and learning processes and the method of student assessment or the limitations of their own thinking and analysis or the transparency of their own agenda but regardless, to paraphrase my colleague Don Conetta, there is no other public school district in New York State, and I would perhaps only a few others in this country, of our size and diversity who are able to achieve the results we do and I attribute the success to the clear policy direction unwavering commitment to the principle of excellence and equity provided by this Board of Education, the extraordinary skill and dedication of our district and building administrators, the remarkable talent and commitment of our almost 2,000 staff members, and the steadfast support shown by the members of this community for its cherished public school system. Most assuredly ours is a City that believes in the power of the public education.

Over the past 12 years it has been my privileged to be part of a school system that serves as a gateway for the children of New Rochelle from families both rich and poor realizing their dreams for a brighter future. Moreover our district continues to be the beacon of hope and inspiration for other similar communities by demonstrating time and time again that educational excellence and diversity can be the cornerstone of a nationally recognized, award-winning public school system.

At this point I am prepared to respond to any questions you might have on behalf of our administrators and teachers I again want to express our appreciation for the opportunity to share with you our vision and aspirations for the 2009 – 2010 school year.

Richmond: Thank you, Dr. Korostoff. Are there any questions? [no replies from board members] OK.

Korostoff: OK.

Richmond: Thank you very much.

Korostoff leaves.

3 thoughts on “New Rochelle Asst. Schools Superintendent Says Community Cannot Understand “Complexities” of Work of Public Schools”

  1. ah dr korostoff
    some people, myself included, have no difficulty understanding the difficulties involved in your job or the education district per se. would you like a test of this statement; in fact, please broaden the base beyond your job duties and include business management, financial management, classroom management, testing theory and practice, setting curricula objectives, monitoring and evaluating results, etc…. i am not arrogant — bob cox undersetands, dr wagner understands, peggy godfrey understands, many others as well.

    there is very little mystery about your position. running any substantial part of a for or not for profit organization gives you breadth and scope for this sort of thing. or perhaps, just perhaps you cannot communicate just what it is that you do — if that is the case, you need to resign and let someone else step into your office and move our kids to a level they can achieve and will achieve with proper guidance and merit. but, perhaps you meant something else and mispoke — why not “clarify” at the next meeting

    I also have difficulty in quoting Mr. Conneta as a source model given some of the unsubstantiated claims he has made over the past two or so years. Frankly, the so called size and complexity issue of NRHS is, in binary business terms, a “fail”. it is curious to reflect on citing success in terms of “no other schools of our size and complexity” etc, when clearly this district has pretty much ignored the core growth and expansion issue for many years and provided voters with little in the way of remedial action other than some spooky “demographic” study conducted by BOCES in Suffolk which was so unhelpful that it is rarely if ever cited in any planning conversation. You might have thought that a professional strategic/educational planning firm would have been brought in to address one of the major sustainability issues in new rochelle.

    you cite correlations between performance and poverty, esl, mobility of students as statistically significant in terms of results engendered on tests. prove it to the untutored reader who pays your salary. for example, if I went to my acquaintences at the Manhattan Institute or ex colleagues at CRPE at Washington Granduate School, would they corroborate this? some perhaps, not all, but even if so, irrelevant as again, you seem to ignore the basic anolomy behind the 2008/09 testing results — would you like a NYS testing report site to confirm or deny this assertion or, for that matter, your statistics.

    You are employing the worse sort of public strategy for an educator. you are essentially looking at your taxpayer and parent base and imperiously saying, “you could not possibly understand, etc.” — you must have picked up this “let them eat cake” attitude from the board.

    But, you may be simply copying an unhealthy trend in the current political landscape. a new blog alleges that noam bramson is shutting out the republicans from a key decisiion making process. doesn’t sound like the man I know, so I hope it is not the case. barack obama is blocking access to fox news; doesn’t sound like the man i know, and again, I hope this is not the case.

    Dr. Korostoff, from your presentation above, I can see you are a person of merit. I particularly like the idea that the district is finally recogniziing the importance of student transition — elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. I suggested that to Organisciak years earlier and great to see you are picking up on this. You also point out the merit of the bulk of the teaching community and here again, you are correct. there is more — some positive in my mind, some less so, but

    we differ in our approach to the taxpayer and voter. if you are so disturbed by what you hear at meetings or read from blogs (and you all read these), do what obama should do with fox news and what bramson should do with the republicans. create a respectful and responsive open forum and debate issues and refute claims.

    I continue to support noam bramson, barack obama, and i think, you as well dr. korostoff. but lighten up, loosen up on the arrogant moments, and define your terms and your citations.

    otherwise, good luck and i hope it turns out that the current and coming school year makes you and all of us proud.

    warren gross
    warren gross

    1. Poor are the uneducated ones!
      Yes, the district school machinations are complex and as a community we should not pretend that we need to know all of it, just what it’s important to us and our children. To dictate that these complexities should be withheld from public discourse, is dishonest and creates an impression that they are withholding something. For a common resident in the community to ask a question or questions about how and why things happen in our schools is not an occasion to be brandished as an undesirable, which is what the BOE administrations is saying here. How arrogant of them. If indeed you wish to have a partnership with the community, please include us in the discussion and don’t get pissed off if we don’t understand an item or a process. Welcome our questions and remarks. Be grown up about it. Don’t stymied debate or discussion simply to obfuscate their incompetence.

      Left of Left Out

      1. Correct , the district prefers unarmed peasants
        The fact that the district operates in such a complex environment , demands they take whatever time needed to address ANY question or explain any aspect of how OUR money is being spent . Of course , it goes without saying , a parent or guardian is entitled to ask , or question any aspect of the curriculum or conditions in their school . Proven time and again this district would like nothing more than a district filled with huddled masses who are just to afraid to make any waves , thereby enabling the “royalty” to persue what’s best for themselves . We’ve all read the stories , the truth is there , so , when do we wake up ? When our taxes double , and the best they can tout is “adequate yearly progress ” ? Organisciak , Quinn (don’t they remind you of the teacher with the hand puppet in South Park ?), Polow and her “stepson” Jeffrey et al can’t possibly have any mirrors because if they ever saw themselves as they truly are , it would make them sick . You can skew data any way you wish , on either side . Stand outside the high school during dismissal . After years of the NR schools , we have a population that demands a full police presence , every day , to keep the peace . That says more than any self aggrandizing propaganda from Korostoff , his pimp Organsciak , or his puppet Quinn . What say you ?

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