Palotti says programs are in place to achieve better results

HORNELL — Hornell City School District officials said last week that the strategies the district has employed to improve student academic performance are paying off, but there is more work to be done.

During the Sept. 11 school board meeting in the high school library, Superintendent Jeremy Palotti shared assessment data for the district — some of it generated in-house while other results are based on state exams and tests. The district also tracks year-to-year graduation rates.

Palotti, who began his duties as school superintendent in July 2017, said his aim was to “highlight some of the work that has gone on that started with our Needs Assessment.”

The needs assessment, accomplished with the Alla Breve Educational Consulting firm, collected data on topics associated with “Effective Schools” research. Its purpose was to help the district focus its efforts, time, energy and financial resources on programs that will have the greatest impact on the 1,620-student city school system.

Where progress has been achieved, Palotti said, it came as “the product of assessing the results of the needs assessment and identifying priority areas.”

Priorities include consistent, supported curriculum, providing an optimum learning environment and preparing for post-secondary career development and planning.

Palotti continued, “And then there has been a lot of work that has happened with administration and teacher groups” to improve academic results.

Palotti said sustained success requires continually striving to improve.

He said, “What do you do when you reach your goals? You make more goals that are more lofty, and that’s what we have done.”

Academic results: K-6 Reading

Measured against reaching grade level proficiency, the district’s K-6th-grade students went from 25 percent reading at or above grade level in 2017 to 44 percent in 2018 to 56 percent in 2019.

Palotti said the district’s implementation of a “cohesive reading curriculum” makes continued improvement likely. He described literacy as “the foundation” for everything that students study at Hornell.

“Of course we are not satisfied with 56 percent of our students that are measured as reading on or above grade level, but we have more than doubled the number of students that have moved and increased to that level, and that’s something we are proud of,” Palotti said.

Kindergarten and first-grade students led the way in 2019, with 73 percent of Hornell’s kindergarten students reading at or above grade level and 65 percent of first-graders doing the same.

New York State grades 3-8 ELA

Over a two-year period, total performance went up by 13 percent, according to state calculations.

Hornell’s 7th-grade ELA ranked second among all the local schools that comprise the GST BOCES system for students earning a “3 or a 4.”

GST BOCES serves 21 school districts in the Southern Tier of New York, which includes approximately 30,000 students.

NYS 3-8 Math

Performance has increased nine percent over two years.

Palotti cautioned that the state assessments are “not the end all, be all,” but he said they are useful for measuring Hornell’s progress compared to other districts.

NYS Regents 2019

For the Algebra II Regents examination, Hornell students achieved a 98. 2 percent pass rate. For Chemistry, the passing rate was 92.6 percent, ranking Hornell second among all the GST BOCES schools.

According to data for the district, Hornell improved its ranking among all GST BOCES districts in four out of ten subject areas in 2019 compared to the year before.

Graduation rates from 2014-19

- 2014, 71 percent.

- 2015, 77 percent.

- 2016, 85 percent.

- 2017, 85 percent.

- 2018, 84 percent.

- 2019, 86.6 percent.

"Again, I don’t think anybody will be satisfied until everybody walks across the (graduation) stage — until we have (the grad rate) as close to 100 percent as humanly possible,” Palotti said. “But we know we are doing the right things, and we are going in the right direction. So it’s something we are proud of, but we have a long ways to go.”