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Fine job: WNY schools improving Much work remains, but take pride in effort to raise student performance

The annual list of public schools needing academic improvement presents the usual mixed bag for Western New York, but amid the jumble of information, there is this encouraging headline: Four Buffalo schools worked their way off the list of those needing improvement. That's a development worth noting. And the architects -- students, parents, teachers, coaches, administrators -- deserve applause.

The four schools are the Buffalo Elementary School of Technology (School 6), North Park Academy (School 66), Houghton Academy (School 69) and Waterfront Elementary (School 95). Lackawanna Middle School was also removed from the list, as were two middle schools in Niagara Falls.

Buffalo Assistant Superintendent Constance M. Moss credited the improvement to an aggressive response by the district. Among its components were staff development, better use of testing data and improved classroom practices. To graduate from the list, the schools had to deal with deficiencies in areas including elementary- and middle-level English language arts, and elementary mathematics.

Wisely, though, Moss also noted that taking a step off the state's list of weakest schools is different from performing at a high level or, for that matter, even an adequate one. "We still have a long way to go," she said.

She's right, but the improvement is still heartening, as was the fact that while three other Buffalo schools were added to the list, there was still a net improvement. What is more, two of those three troubled schools closed. Improving school performance is challenging enough anytime, but in one of the nation's poorest cities, the work is truly formidable. But with the evidence of this year's progress and the arrival of a new superintendent who says he will insist upon performance, there is reason to hope this year's success is not merely an aberration.

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