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Study: Learning gap exists at Nisky schools

Closure of one middle school recommended for efficiencies, cost savings

Van Antwerp Middle School students walk into the building on the first day of the 2011-12 school year. A recent middle school study aims to improve achievement in classrooms and find efficiencies.

Van Antwerp Middle School students walk into the building on the first day of the 2011-12 school year. A recent middle school study aims to improve achievement in classrooms and find efficiencies.

— There is a bevy of recommendations for Niskayuna Central School District officials to contemplate with the release of a yearlong independent study on its two middle schools that found achievement gaps among student groups and suggested closing one of the schools to save money.

The Niskayuna Board of Education and district officials on Tuesday, Dec. 6, heard a presentation outlining findings and recommendations included in a study aiming to enhance middle school programming and use resources.

Educational consultants Jack Berckemeyer, of Incentive Publications, and Annette Fante, of Transforming Thinking, started the study last fall and conducted more than 100 classroom observations, held seven focus groups and surveyed the school community.

“We looked at every aspect of the middle school program, which requires we look at other aspects of the district, elementary and high schools, because the middle school doesn’t operate in isolation.” Fante said.

Berckemeyer worked 13 years for the National Middle School Association and said he’s been in over 400 middle schools across the county

“This is a good school system, the middle schools are good, so when we go through these observations we are going to be a little nitpicky on some things,” Berckemeyer said. “But here is the question — does Niskayuna want to be great? It is going to be difficult to get to great … you are going to have to unfortunately drive through Uglyville, but when you get to the end this could be one of the most exemplary middle schools in the state.”

Boys, students with disabilities are lagging

A review of achievement data revealed there are significant performance gaps on the middle school level that researchers said begin even earlier.

“The issue about performance gaps on the English language arts and mathematics doesn’t begin at the middle school level,” said Fante. “The gaps in disability performance and boys in reading is evident in elementary as well and you have data to support this.”

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