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Sleepy Hollow Addresses 'Needs Improvement' Rating

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Sleepy Hollow Middle School has already begun implementing a number of recommendations to help improve its “ School In Need of Improvement ” designation under the No Child Left Behind Act, officials said during Thursday's board of education meeting.

The programs address the sub-group of students in English classes that did not meet state test standards in the 2010-11 school year, which was English as a Second Language (ESL) students who have passed a language proficiency test but are still not fluent in the English language. To remove the SINI designation, the school must show that every sub-group in every subject meets standards for two consecutive years.

“In general this was taken very seriously,” Superintendent Howard Smith said. “It was not something that was just done in a perfunctory kind of thing because we had to. People really looked at all the kinds of variables that enter into quality instruction in a variety of different dimensions.”

Among the many programs in place, school officials have formed a team to monitor the progress of ESL students even after they pass a proficiency test. Officials will also work to integrate language goals into other classes besides English to make sure that ESL students understand the academic language that will be used in state tests.

Officials also will use writing rubrics in ESL classes and devote more time to helping ESL students learn their native language. Lopez said research shows helping students understand their native language helps them transition and learn English.

The school improvement process includes submitting reports to the state education department, conducting an internal self-assessment and a written report.

Sleepy Hollow Middle School Principal Elizabeth Lopez said certain school department chairs and administrators have been working with a Mercy College consultant to identify problem areas and seek solutions. This collaboration will help the school reach out to ESL students' parents to get them involved in their child's schoolwork at home.

Lopez said the school would be monitoring those ESL students more closely this year than ever before. She also noted this was something that wasn't just a “test to the test” method because it was just good instruction.

“We created sort of a separate tracking of those children just to make sure they are making the type of progress they need to move forward,” she said. “That's something that came of this self-assessment process because we realized we were not effectively monitoring the progress of these children.”

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