State Ed names Holley a ‘target’ school district in need of improvement

Photo by Tom Rivers: Brian Bartalo, superintendent of Holley Central School, said the district will push high expectations for all students. He speaks during Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2019 at 9:27 am

HOLLEY – The school district has been identified as a “target district” by the State Education Department, and will have at least two years to improve student performance.

Holley is in good standing for the elementary and high school. However, it has been identified as a “target district” due to low student scores for seventh- and eighth-graders, said Brian Bartalo, the school district superintendent.

Holley is one of 106 school districts out of 733 in the state that are target districts. The state will provide resources to help the districts form a plan to raise student achievement. Holley is the only district in Orleans County on the list.

Bartalo said he is all for raising student performance.

“It can be done,” he told the Holley Board of Education on Monday. “We have to believe in our kids and have high expectations.”

Holley students in seventh and eighth grade overall had low scores in state ELA and math tests from last spring. That is the main factor in Holley being listed as a target district, Bartalo told the board. The previous year, Holley students scored high enough where Holley was listed in “good standing” by the state.

The district also rated low in a new category from the state measuring college, career and civic readiness. The district offers college level and advanced placement classes. Bartalo said the district may need to encourage students to take more of those classes as well as work towards diplomas that are Regents with Distinction.

He travels to Albany on March 26 to meet with State Ed officials on the next steps for the district. State Ed officials also will spend three days in Holley from May 7-9, meeting with staff, students and focus groups. The state officials will also do classroom visits as part of a needs assessment for the district.

Holley will work with a consultant to form a plan that should be in effect to start the next school year, Bartalo said.

The superintendent met with junior high teachers last week to go over the report from the state. Bartalo said he shared a clip from the movie Stand and Deliver, a 1988 film based on the true story of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante. He worked in Los Angeles and his students overcame extreme poverty to excel in calculus. Escalante led his classes with the philosophy of “ganas,” which translates into “desire” or “motivation.”

“It took determination,” Bartalo said.

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