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North Warren jumps in academic ranking, WCS falls

ALBANY A highly-regarded independent ranking of public school districts was released this week, and several area schools experienced sharp changes in their position on the list from 2007 to 2008. According to the Sept. 26 issue of the Capital District Business Review, North Warren Central and Hadley-Luzerne School districts were among those that rose the most in the publications ranking, which annually rates about 85 schools in the capital region. North Warren Central rose from No. 29 to No. 22, and Hadley-Luzerne, not too long ago considered an at risk school by the state, rose from No. 58 to No. 41. Beecher Baker, a Warrensburg native, has served as principal of the school district for several years during its era of substantial academic improvement. The Business Review ranks schools in a complex but comprehensive formula that weighs such factors as test scores, graduation and dropout rates, teacher-pupil ratios, availability of various programs and pupil services, depth of advanced placement and gifted and talented programs, availability of extra-curricular offerings, efficient use of tax dollars, while taking into account prevailing household income and tax base of the community. Monday, North Warren Principal Theresa Andrew said her school districts ranking jump might be related to their addition, during the past two years, of advanced placement courses in Calculus and Chemistry. Also a possible factor, she said, was their pilot gifted and talented program, and their recent excursions into distance learning in conjunction with Hudson Valley Community College. These distance learning courses, transmitted by digital fiber-optic cable, include college-credit classes in Psychology and Sociology for North Warren juniors and seniors. Also a probable factor in the ranking jump, she added, may have been that last years seniors had remarkable academic abilities. In addition, the school has been completing a realignment of the curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, stressing continuity with an eye on replacing time-wasting repetition with logical progression in skill development. Andrew also credited support, from both the community and the school board, for the districts programs. Also moving up in rankings was Bolton Central, from No. 30 to No. 27. Falling in the rankings most precipitously was Warrensburg, declining from No. 24 to No. 32. Also dropping were Lake George, from 12 to 15; Queensbury, from 11 to 17, and Johnsburg Central, from 31 to unranked. Up through several years ago, Warrensburg Central routinely appeared in the top 10 schools in the regional rankings of the Business Review. In 2001, it was No. 3 of all 85 schools. But in recent years, its standing has dropped. In contrast to North Warren and top-ranked schools like Bethlehem and Vorheesville, Warrensburg Centrals school board has in recent years cut academic enrichment programs, gifted and talented offerings, and extracurricular programs all with an eye on trimming expenses, but over the objections of teachers. Theyve also made unpopular cuts of teaching positions. Warrensburg Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson didnt talk about these changes. Instead, he said the drop in ranking was probably because of the routine differences between classes their wide range of individual abilities as they moving through the school system. As one class or another were tested by the state, scores would likely vary, skewing the results one way or another, he said. Also, one grade level could experience a surge in dropouts. Such changes would be amplified in the rankings, he said, since the school has a small student enrollment. Were not too concerned by an eight-position drop, he said. If we were in the bottom 40, then Id be extremely concerned. Lawson said the schools new administration team had recently launched new initiatives in character building and another to avoid discipline problems by recognizing all students more for their achievements, rather than chastising them for their shortfalls. This, he said, was a valuable addition that was likely to be reflected in future assessments of the school.

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