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Why Can't Buffalo Schools Meet State Guidelines?

(WBEN) The State Education Department has once again rejected one of the city's improvement plans for Buffalo Schools, and later today they are expected to say something similar on a transfer plan that doesn't let enough kids go to better schools. 

But School Superintendent Pamela Brown will not be participating in an Albany session to fix the application.

" I can' t imagine why the superintendent would find anything more important than going to Albany and getting this finalized "
    - Regent Bob Bennett of Buffalo

   "I have been invited to participate in a small group session with (President Obama) on that day. I also have a speaking engagement.. on Thursday" 
   - Buffalo Schools Supt Pamela Brown

On Monday, the state gave the district a specific list of changes that have to be made to the turnaround plan for Lafayette and East High Schools before they can be approved. The letter from the state includes 35 items that need to be corrected.

State Education Commissioner John King has invited the district to come to Albany this week to work on fresh submissions, but Superintendent Pamela Brown will not attend, due to prior commitments,including  a small session with President Obama in conjunction with  his speech Thursday at UB.

Who do you think has the best shot at getting Buffalo's troubled schools back on track?
Board of Eduction
( 7% )
( 1% )
New York State
( 21% )
Outside Entity
( 71% )

"This is the last chance and this is an unusual offer from the state to spend 5 hours with Pam Brown and whomever she wants to bring with her, to finish these applications so school can open, with this model in September," says Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett of the State Board of Regents. "This is the last gasp,"

The rejection of the district's plans are at least the tenth time that the State has sent back applications for the two schools with specific corrections, according to a timeline of failure prepared by Buffalo Reform ED.

  Buffalo's Early News In Depth: Hear Regents Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett from and School Board Member Carl Paladino with John Zach, Susan Rose

"This isn't just a problem that has happened over the past year.... This is a problem where the district iteslf, the central office has been missing deadlines for three, four years, and failing to do what they have promised to do.   It's just a constant year-after-year failure." 

- Jason Zwara
 Buffalo Reform ED

The lack of cooperation  from his colleagues on the School Board does not set well with Carl Paladino, often at odds with Supt. Brown:

"Maybe we should start with an attitude change . Because the attitude I have been witnessing at the board is that ' John King is a bad man. The state department is bad people',  and (school board members) are going to push back on everything because they are going to have their way or the highway. "

The latest rejection letter from the State Education Commissioner John King includes a chart showing 35 issues where the city's plan is not adequate for him to approve the turnaround plan. King threatens shutting down Lafayette and East if changes are not made.

Since my July 10, 2013 directive, SED staff has provided extensive guidance and technical assistance to BPS in order to ensure that you were able to meet the August 12, 2013 submission deadline. As you know, I am acutely aware of the urgent need to ensure that students at East and Lafayette High Schools be made to wait no longer to receive an education that readies them for college and careers. Accordingly, SED will continue to provide guidance and technical assistance to BPS as the district dedicates its staff and resources to accomplishing this task. I have directed Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz to arrange a date and time during the week of August 19, 2013 when BPS representatives can come to Albany to complete their submission with on-site guidance and technical assistance from SED. Please note: as part of this technical assistance, SED and BPS will discuss and finalize the appropriate metrics for plan progress monitoring. 

As I stated in my July 10, 2013 directive, if the above plans are not successfully implemented and/or academic results at East and Lafayette High Schools do not improve, I will consider requiring BPS to enroll all East and Lafayette students in schools in Good Standing, and/or recommending to the Board of Regents that the registration of these schools be revoked. For BEST and School 80, failure to address these issues may result in the suspension, termination, or nonrenewal of the schools’  School Improvement Grants."

From Buffalo Reform ED, an education advocacy group   from their blog at Buffalo Reform ED.com

With news that the District will likely need to yet again revise the corrective action plan to transfer students out of 'low performing' schools, we may again soon see one of the few consistencies in the District: the regular outcry by defenders of the status quo that the State Education Department is 'picking on' or 'bullying' Buffalo. This continued ignorance of the severe issues facing the District in favor of finger pointing shows a complete lack of urgency and leads to an even more dysfunctional school system each year.

While Rochester and Syracuse struggle with graduation rates and proficiency scores just as poor, or even worse, than Buffalo, Commissioner King has credited the leadership in these cities with accepting the problems their districts face and working to address them. Instead of focusing exclusively on how factors beyond the district's control may impact students, leaders in Rochester, Syracuse and other districts across the state are taking the necessary steps to improve what they do have control over. Commissioner King acknowledged these districts face many of the same issues as Buffalo but have demonstrated a sense of urgency and responsibility for tackling the problems.

It is this lack of urgency or sense of responsibility among Buffalo leadership that singles out the District. Buffalo has persistently ignored or delayed addressing pressing problems, complains that the State has failed to provide adequate guidance, then protests about State overreach when NYSED officials attempt to assist the District.

The on-going issue involving turnaround plans at East and Lafayette is a perfect example. The District delayed development and submission of turnaround plans for these two schools, ultimately submitting plans that clearly failed to meet the State's requirements, then lashed out at the State when NYSED rejected the plans as insufficient. This same pattern has been repeated with other issues, including developing a new educator evaluation system and action plan to provide transfers to students in 'low performing' schools.

As a result, Buffalo may soon be facing unprecedented consequences from the State. As WGRZ reported, Commissioner King is promoting a bill that would authorize NYSED to takeover persistently failing school districts, replacing the local school board. While a similar bill was introduced in 2010 and 2011 and failed to pass through committee, this year Commissioner King clearly has a case study in mind: Buffalo. For King and the State it is becoming increasingly clear: the problems in Buffalo start with a lack of leadership. Perhaps the only way to begin moving the District forward is to outright remove the biggest hurdle.

Statement from Dr. Pamela C. Brown, Buffalo Schools Superintendent:
State Education Commissioner John B. King issued a letter today stating that a review of District turnaround plans for East and Lafayette High Schools show a need for further revisions. 

Commissioner King is expecting those revisions by close of business on August 23rd, and has suggested that BPS representatives travel to Albany to complete the revisions on-site with technical assistance from NYSED. 

Both East and Lafayette plans include Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary as the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO), while Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) would provide Career and Technical Training to students who care to enroll there.
Commissioner King has also called for revisions in the EPO contracts for Highgate Heights School #80 (Westminster Foundation) and Buffalo Elementary School of Technology School #6 (Research to Practice).
Members of my staff will make themselves available to complete all plan applications to fulfill the requirements of the State Education Department in order to bring School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding and extra supports to the above mentioned schools for the benefit of the students who attend them.
As the District continues our efforts toward achievement in Focus and Priority Schools, it is our goal to ensure that each child receives a world-class education and that all of our schools become Schools in Good Standing.

Earlier Audio
From Hardline, the WBEN Politics Program

HEAR JASON ZWARA, BUFFALO REFORM ED- as Buffalo prepared to approve the plans that were just rejected


The timeline of failure prepared by Buffalo Reform ED

East and Lafayette Timeline by Sandra Tan

Filed Under :  
Topics : Education
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Locations : BuffaloRochesterSyracuse
People : John B. KingJohn KingKen SlentzPamela C. Brown
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