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Peekskill Schools Study: Leadership, Organization is Lacking

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – A team of education professionals has found that the Peekskill City School District is not making enough yearly progress with some of its student groups and advises that the district come up with a plan for change by February.

James Butterworth, a former New York principal and school superintendent, took part in a Joint Intervention Team (JIT) evaluation of Peekskill High School in November and reported the group’s findings to the district Tuesday night.

The district was forced to undergo the study by the state after it was determined through annual standardized test scores that showed students with disabilities were not making adequate progress in English language arts and math and that all students were not making progress in graduation rates several years in a row. Hillcrest Elementary School and Peekskill Middle School will also be undergoing similar studies over the next month.

Butterworth said the JIT found several things that they believed needed improvement in order to get students making annual progress. Most of the slides from the presentation can be found in the photo gallery above.

He said the team found no evidence of written curriculum tied to New York State standards and that there was no system for getting feedback about the quality of instruction. The JIT team also found what it believed to be a lack of instructional leadership at the school, Butterworth said.

"For students to really be able to succeed, they will need top notch instruction and there is a call for leadership in that area," he said.

The study also found many faculty had a low expectations of what students could do and teachers did not always specialize lessons to specific student's needs, he said.

Butterworth also said that the team found that teachers needed to get better at teaching to students with disabilities or students dealing with language barriers in general education classrooms.

The high school administrative team spends much of its time tending to building management issues, such as security and discipline issues, instead of working to improve student learning, he said. "You keep the building in motion but you cannot move it forward," Butterworth said.

The study found the district's special education department did not have enough oversight over special educational instruction at the high school and that there is inadequate planning between general and special education teachers that sometimes led to special education teachers being underutilized.

Also, the study found teachers did not a have an adequate system in place for dealing with problematic student behavior and the district needed a better plan to address low attendance and tardiness.

The district must now formulate an updated comprehensive education plan to improve the problem areas by February with the intent of implementing the plan in the spring.

Butterworth said that staff was found to be very open and committed to improving and that students feel supported and connected to the teachers and the school. The study found that common planning time was being provided at the start of each school day and that there was a reduction in some subgroups failing annual progress reports.

Superintendent James Willis said the change being made both in the state and nationally to educational standards made it the right time to implement the recommended changes in the report.

"You couldn't think of a better time for us to make those changes," Willis said.

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