Just days before a contentious School Board election that could determine whether she keeps her job, Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown released an optimistic report highlighting improvements in student performance.
The district announced late Friday that it had improved its performance on an annual report card released by the state, meeting academic goals across more racial and ethnic groups than it had the previous year.
School officials reported that the district had met the targets for reading in five out of 10 student groups assessed, compared to just one the previous year. In math, the district met the targets in seven out of 10 groups, compared to none the previous year.
“It is so encouraging to see our district made substantial progress,” Brown said. “Isn’t that something to celebrate?”
The improvements, however, aren’t so clear cut, an examination of the numbers shows.
In most of the areas assessed, the district failed to actually meet its performance targets. Rather, it was deemed to have made “adequate yearly progress” under a special provision that essentially gives districts a pass if enough students show some improvement.
And even with that special provision, the district still failed to meet the goals in reading for black and Hispanic students, as well as those who are considered to be living in poverty. Those students make up the vast majority of the district.
The state releases the report cards each year to assess the performance of schools and districts on state exams. The report card looks at performance not just overall, but in 10 different racial and ethnic groups. The reports released this week were based on tests from the 2012-2013 school year.
Each year schools and districts must meet certain performance targets – which are based on their students’ performance the previous year – to be considered in good standing in the state, and in compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Those that miss the targets face stiff penalties, which ultimately can lead to school closures in low-performing districts like Buffalo.
This year, the state lowered the bar to adjust for a new, more difficult standardized test administered last school year.
Buffalo chose to highlight those bright spots, although overall just 12 percent of students are deemed proficient in reading and 10 percent are proficient in math. Across the board, student assessment fell with the new, tougher state assessment.
Brown said the district waited until the end of the week to announce the results because administrators needed time to go through the data and interpret what it means.
Before a backdrop that read “A World Class Education for Every Child,” she presented the report with administrators and School Board member Florence Johnson and Board President Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, who is running for re-election.
Nevergold said the leadership that has been demonstrated by Brown is an “essential part of what has happened.”
“This is an exceptional afternoon,” Nevergold said. “There has been a lot of progress, and we will continue that momentum.”