A community educational task force assembled in 2012 to foster student achievement has released its "2014 Albany Promise Report Card."
Albany Promise is a regional, cross-sector partnership where community leaders come together to support a shared vision for education. Albany Public Schools Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard: "It is a large network of organizations, organized originally by Nancy Zimpher as Chancellor, created and designed to provide support for 'cradle-to-career' initiatives across the district."
University at Albany President Robert Jones says "system change" is a key component of the plan. He says progress has been slow and incremental, but steady. "The work that we've laid out. The benchmarks that we've set. The common table that we've tried to create including all the partners, everyone in the Albany area that has a vested interest in improving the educational outcome of our children who are around the table and using data-driven strategies to decide what initiatives and what programs need to be brought to scale and replicated across the whole system so that each and every child is prepared for some type of post-secondary education once they finish high school. But the first and primary thing we're trying to focus on is how do we leverage all of these data-driven strategies to improve graduation rates and the educational attainment of our children?"
If Jones could assign a letter grade to the program thus far, what would it be? "Maybe a C-plus, because you know we are still at the very stages of this. We have miles to go before we get to where we need to be. We have a lot more systems to put into place. We've only been at this for two years now, and as I said in a meeting the other day, it took fifty years to create these challenges that we're having and they are not going to be resolved overnight."
Wednesday's Pride announcement was perhaps tarnished by a report released by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office that identified 178 so-called “failing” schools in New York. Several were in the Capital Region including Albany High, Hackett Middle School, and Schuyler Academy in Albany; Hamilton Elementary and Lincoln School in Schenectady; P.S. 2 in Troy, all of which were in the bottom five percent of schools statewide in combined English Language Arts and math scores.
Jones sees the report as a clear indication of problems that are pervasive across the state and nation. "It sends a very strong message as far as I'm concerned, that the past strategies are not giving us the results that we need. From my perspective, this collective impact strategy we're trying to put in place is perhaps one of the best options. But there's no simple one solution to this. It's going to take all kinds of multiple approaches to really help resolve this very very complex issue."
Going forward, Vanden Wyngaard believes the strength of Albany Promise’s success lies in the network of partners. "I am still the luckiest superintendent in the world because there are a host of companies, a host of organizations, and a whole lot of people behind this work so that we can better engage our students, take care of our families, and help them have all the opportunities that they need to succeed."
The 2014 Report Card addresses several issues, including the first-ever district-wide assessment of incoming kindergartners and increasing student testing participation. It also details three “action teams” created by the partnership to assist struggling students.