State steps in to address wave of student failures at two Buffalo schools

Jul 20, 2013 by

BUFFALO, N.Y. – New York state education officials have had enough of the excuses for miserable student performance in two Buffalo high schools and they’ve given district leaders an ultimatum.

Buffalo school officials have until August 12 to decide whether to offer students at those schools classes though the state’s Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, known as BOCES, or let BOCES take over operations at the high schools: Lafayette High School and East High School, WIVB reports.

Lafayette’s graduation rate last school year was 21 percent, while only 27 percent graduated from East.

“We will no longer sit idly by and watch poor performing schools exist while the adults are saying that things are going swimmingly,” Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Slentz told the news site.

“We simply won’t tolerate that anymore. The commissioner is ready to take aggressive action, as he already has.”

Buffalo Superintendent Pamela Brown was missing in action for several days leading up to an important visit to the district by state education officials, the news site reports, but emerged Thursday for the meeting. Her staff told news reporters only that she was “out of the district,” but refused to offer additional details.

Brown said she took a few days off, but was ready for the meeting this week. She told WIVB her administration will discuss the options for the two high schools with the district’s board of education and others before proceeding.

“We will have further discussion with the board. We will share the information we received today with the rest of the board,” she said. “We plan to have stakeholder meetings before decisions will be made.”

The city’s teachers union, of course, is speaking out against the state’s intervention, despite clear evidence that students in the two high schools are in desperate need of help.

“ … (T)o have people from Albany who haven’t even set foot in these schools pull the rug out from underneath them is absolutely horrendous,” Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore told the news site. “And they need to hear it from teachers.”

WIVB reports “principals and some teachers at Lafayette and East got an audience with the state education officials and pleaded their case.”

But it doesn’t take an on-site visit or discussions with the schools’ staff to understand the problem. A closer look will undoubtedly reveal that the major reasons why the schools are slow to improve are tied to the union contract, which constrains teaching time and school days and creates other work rules that benefit teachers at the expense of students.

We commend state education officials for finally taking a stand, and forcing the district to take more drastic action to address the educational injustice at Lafayette and East. We encourage them to take the same approach throughout the district.

Next year, 45 out of 50 Buffalo public schools will be considered failing, and that’s simply unacceptable.

The state education department has the power to change that, and it should as soon as possible.

State steps in to address wave of student failures at two Buffalo schools – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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