Making the Grade: Examining the Valley’s High Schools

The economic downturn has forced educators throughout the region to do more with less. Here’s a look at how four local schools are helping their students succeed with innovative programs and special services. Want to know how your child’s school measures up? Check our chart, which lists stats for 65 Valley high schools


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High school students are no strangers to the nerve-wracking experience of facing a barrage of evaluation numbers — report cards, grade point averages, SATs, Regents scores, and more — that essentially determine a young person’s academic future.

The state gives out its own report cards, too — these rate the schools themselves, offering an in-depth look at how effective they are in educating our youngsters.

The annual New York State Report Cards, compiled by the state Department of Education and other sources, present a dizzying multitude of data. They measure districts’ accomplishments, and compare stats involving everything from the number of kids who graduate to testscores, expenditures per student, whether a school has improved (thus ranking it “High Performing” or “Gap-Closing”), whether it’s made

“Adequate Yearly Progress,” or declined in average test scores compared to the previous year.

While kids, parents, and educators alike argue that test results shouldn’t be the only criteria — or indeed, the true focus — for learning, it’s a fact of educational life that numbers have become increasingly important tools to assess student accomplishments.

The controversial No Child Left Behind Act has been a key stimulus in the nationwide push for higher test scores — and in a trickle-down manner, it’s resulted in a success-driven mindset for many districts, schools, educators, administrators, and students.

Still, the numbers look encouraging here in New York State. A number of schools in the Valley — 65 to be exact — have shown progress in their overall state Report Card grades.

And while the accompanying charts offer a comparison of various schools and their numerical academic rankings, we also spoke to administrators at four Valley high schools — all of which were named to the state’s “High Performing/Gap Closing” list — to find out how they’re creating an innovative, effective learning environment.

Each school’s approach illustrates the importance of creativity, accountability, and motivation — along with straightforward academics — in making education viable for our kids.

And, in these days of a roller-coaster economy and painful state budget cuts, it’s encouraging to see the many ways in which parents, staff, and students keep our schools thriving, in times when it’s often tough to even survive.

» First class: Beacon High School, Dutchess County

See last page of article for statistics, including average SAT scores

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