CHAMPLAIN - Northeastern Clinton Central Middle School has now been removed from a list of schools across the state most in need of academic improvement.
School district superintendent Peter J. Turner said he received preliminary notification from the State Education Department Feb. 4 that the district's middle school was removed from the Schools and Districts in Need of Improvement list. The unofficial report from the state was sent for the district to verify before a final report is released.
"We're confident the numbers are right," said Turner.
According to the superintendent, the middle school was placed on the list in 2007 after falling below certain expectation levels on state exams for two years in a row.
Middle school principal Thomas Q. Brandell said there are "benchmark numbers" schools must reach in order to stay off the list and to be considered offering students a quality education. However, the middle school fell below those numbers in two categories of students - the economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.
The status did, however, earn the school grant funding to improve programs and curriculum to boost test scores to the level they are expected, said Brandell. The funding has helped the school improve its weaker curriculum areas for struggling students such as English/Language Arts.
"We had to do a lot of work and that work entailed professional development for our staff, vamping some of the curriculum, buying some equipment technology and meeting with state officials," Brandell said.
Though the funding has helped get the middle school off the list - which is a minimum two-year process - the status of having been on the list is a "black eye" for the school district, said Turner.
"It's not something that schools go around bragging about," said Turner. "It does give you some funds, which is nice, but you got the funds because you're in trouble."
The school district was also required to develop a comprehensive educational plan to demonstrate how administrators and educators intend to keep the middle school off the list in the future, said Brandell.
The 60-page plan of action included an overview of the school's demographics as well as its weaknesses and what changes are being proposed to address them.
"That's a monumental project," Brandell said of preparing the plan.
In the end, the work was worth it to get the school off the list, said Turner.
"It's fantastic news," he said. "It shows the middle school, the administration, the teachers and the students have been working hard."
As for Brandell, he said he remains "cautiously optimistic about the future" and plans to remain focused on the quality of education to all students, including those with disabilities. He also said he feels an early literacy program started at Mooers Elementary and Rouses Point Elementary schools will help students moving up through the district become better prepared for the curriculum ahead.
"We're optimistic that the lessons we've learned with changing the curriculum and methods of delivering the instruction will deliver stronger results," said Brandell.