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District announces bold proposal for middle and high school programs
Feb. 16, 2007

In a bold move focused squarely on student achievement and opportunity, the City School District of Albany today announced a proposal that would introduce dramatic and exciting changes to the district’s middle and high school programs.

Related Links:
 
uMarch 6 Board meeting Middle School/High School Planning presentation

uFeb. 15 Board meeting Middle School/High School Planning presentation

Under the innovative proposal to “holistically” re-engineer the  district’s high school and middle school programs, students in the district would have the choice of attending one of two specialized magnet middle schools in either the arts and humanities or research science and technology. Albany High School would be restructured into small academies that would engage students in fields they are interested in and to prepare them for success in the 21st Century with real-world experience and critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Philip Livingston Magnet Academy, currently a middle school, would be the home of Albany High School’s academy for nanoscale science, engineering and environmental science.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, the proposal was presented to the Board of Education, which is currently reviewing the plan. Community forums and parent information sessions will be announced.

The changes would take place at the start of the 2008-09 school year, and are in response to several factors, including enrollment trends, the need to improve student performance at the middle school level, and the emergence of the high-tech fields as an important part of the region’s economy.

“The serious improvements we need to make as a district require bold action,” Superintendent Eva Joseph said. “This plan represents the significant steps we need to take to move forward in terms of lifting the achievement of middle school students and preparing all students at the high school level for a future where the competition is global, high-tech is a premier industry and specialized skills will be rewarded.”

Among the factors that spurred the plan are:

  • Middle school enrollment projections: As a result of declining middle school enrollment projections, it is anticipated that only two middle school programs, in addition to the PreK-8 program at North Albany Academy, will be necessary beginning with the 2008-09 school year. Additionally, due to academic performance at Philip Livingston Magnet Academy and William S. Hackett Middle School in recent years, both schools are reaching stages of the federal No Child Left Behind and New York State Department of Education accountability system where significant changes, including the potential for closing the schools and reopening them with different programs and structures, could be required by the state.
     

  • Re-engineering the Albany High School academic program: At the same time, district officials are looking at how to re-engineer the academic program at Albany High School to maximize student achievement and engagement and ease congestion of the approximately 2,400 students it currently serves.

The program elements of the proposal are:

  • Two magnet middle schools: The themes proposed for the two schools include arts and humanities, and research science and technology. Through an interdisciplinary approach to classroom instruction, tying the curriculum to themes and real world applications, and enhancing the quality of teaching/instruction through research-based professional growth strategies, the result will be a program rich in academic support and opportunity.
     

  • Albany High School: The high school program would be restructured into “academies,” an innovative approach that allows students to become engaged in smaller learning communities. Smaller learning environments have been proven through research to result in increased student achievement, as well as a safer and more orderly school atmosphere, an increased sense of belonging for students and a more personalized educational experience. The district would build the academies based on student interest and its current high school career exploration offerings in areas such as criminal justice/law, engineering, finance, communication and the arts, education and health sciences.

  • Philip Livingston Magnet Academy: Due to declining middle school enrollment, Philip Livingston will be repurposed as Albany High School’s academy of nanoscale science, engineering and environmental science. This program will build on the district’s recently announced “NanoHigh” partnership with the UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Also, leveraging Philip Livingston’s location adjacent to the Tivoli Nature Preserve will create an opportunity for innovative coursework in the environmental sciences. This program would be recognized as a national model for 9-16 education in emerging technologies.

“We are 100 percent committed to improving our middle school programs and our high school graduation rate. And, we must address the fact that enrollment at the middle school level is declining due to charter schools,” Dr. Joseph said. “This plan not only recognizes the challenges that confront the district, but by addressing them in an innovative fashion, it will make the Albany city schools increasingly stronger – offering more opportunities that will result in student achievement,”

Dr. Joseph added: “This proposal would give the community around Philip Livingston a cutting-edge, innovative educational facility that we believe will be a model for technology-related education on a national level.”

Superintendent Joseph said that the district has been a regional leader in educational innovations for some time, noting examples such as the Mandarin Chinese program at Albany High School since 1989, and the prestigious Internationale Baccalaureate Programme at the high school that is one of only two in the greater Capital Region.

“In order to continue to be a leader in education, you must change with the times, confront your challenges and keep the interest of students truly at heart,” she said. “This bold proposal to re-engineer our middle and high school programs satisfies those elements.”

 

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