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Low test scores continue in city Buffalo schools among those cited

More than half of Buffalo's public schools were cited by the state Wednesday for poor student test scores, and district officials urged the public to have patience and faith in Superintendent James A. Williams' academic improvement plan.

The state Education Department's annual report -- which is prompted by federal law -- named 35 Buffalo schools as subpar, leaving just 24 in good standing.

Locally, the list of low-performing schools is dominated by Buffalo, where nine schools have been cited as "in need of improvement" for at least six years and therefore are in various phases of restructuring.

But nine suburban and rural districts also were cited for different levels of poor performance, along with two Buffalo charter schools.

Buffalo school officials said several provisions of the federal law tend to exaggerate the academic difficulties, but they readily conceded that results must improve dramatically.

"These results are not acceptable to us in any way," said Amber Dixon, executive director for project initiatives.

Williams said academic reforms that began to take hold last school year -- when the assessment tests in question were given -- should prompt improvement. Those changes include curriculum modifications, a staff development overhaul and closer supervision of teachers.

"We're up to the task," said Ralph Hernandez, the board's West District member. "Those numbers will eventually change. I'm asking the public to hang in there with us."

In Buffalo, two high schools and seven grade schools are in the midst of restructuring: Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, Grover Cleveland High School, Futures Academy School 37, Southside Elementary School, Burgard Vocational High School, Poplar Street Academy School 11, Hamlin Park Elementary School 74, West Hertel Elementary and Frank A. Sedita Community School.

LaSalle Middle School in Niagara Falls was cited for the fifth consecutive year, meaning it has to put together a restructuring plan.

Dunkirk Middle School in Chautauqua County was cited for the fourth year, requiring a less extensive "action plan."

Sweet Home Middle School was listed for the third straight year and must offer outside tutoring to struggling students.

Franklinville Junior-Senior High School in Cattaraugus County and Enterprise Charter School and KIPP Sankofa Charter School, both in Buffalo, were listed for the second year and -- theoretically at least -- have to offer students the opportunity to transfer to higher performing schools in the district.

Williams said he and many other superintendents nationwide object to provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that require schools to count test scores of almost all special education students -- including many with severe disabilities -- and to give tests in English to students who just arrived from countries where other languages are spoken.

Less-impoverished schools that struggle academically are rated on a different list, one that bears much milder consequences.

Locally, those schools include Lake Shore High School, Lancaster High School, Dunkirk High School and Jamestown High School in Chautauqua County and Alexander Middle School-High School in Genesee County.

These other Buffalo schools were cited in different categories: Dr. George Blackman Early Childhood Center, School 17, Hillery Park Academy School 27, Waterfront School, Bilingual Center, BUILD Academy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Institute, Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, Lorraine Academy, Dr. Charles Drew Science Magnet School 59 and Campus West.

Also, Community School 53, Grabiarz School of Excellence, Harriet Ross Tubman Academy, Herman Badillo Community School, International School 45, Native American Magnet School, School 43, School 61, Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center, Riverside Institute of Technology, Seneca Vocational High School, Bennett High School, Lafayette High School and South Park High School.

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