District takes positive step

Since the 2011-12 school year, Gloversville High School has had a multidisciplinary team focused on helping students who are at risk of failure because of academic difficulties, poor attendance or behavioral issues.

The team is composed of Assistant Principal Mark Batty, the academic intervention family facilitator, the school psychologist, a behavior specialist, a special-education teacher, and teachers in core subjects such as math, science and English language arts.

Initiated in 2011, the program was a proactive effort by the district, not a reaction to the state Education Department designating the district in September as a “focus district.”

The Education Department says focus districts and focus schools are those with “low performance and lack of progress in English language arts and math combined or graduation rates for one or more accountability groups,” which are racial or ethnic groups, low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities. GHS’ overall 2011-12 graduation rate was 58.6 percent.

The pooling of ideas is an obvious asset of the high school’s team approach. Also, Batty said, the team aims to find the core issue or issues that are causing problems to each at-risk student beyond the generally stressful transition from middle to high school. The team brainstorms strategies to help the student. It tries to identify an adult in the school with whom the student is most comfortable, and that adult serves as the student’s “go-to person.”

In times past, the high school had a special summer orientation for at-risk students and their parents that brought together school and community resources, but Batty said the school believes the new approach will produce better outcomes.

He said it already is bringing success to more students, but long-term tracking will provide the information needed to evaluate and improve the program. The current sophomore class will be the first test case.

By its very design, the school’s program seems to have a better-than-average chance to make a difference. As the venture evolves through experience, the outcomes should improve gradually. We look forward to reporting positive results.