According to the state Education Department, Jamestown is now considered a "focus district."
A school district may be designated as such if a number of its subgroups, as defined by the state, fail to perform up to state standards. Subgroups include but are not limited to low income, white, Hispanic, black, Asian, students with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. The latter two have been pointed out by the state as subgroups that underperform at Jamestown schools.
Previous state school designations were based on school level reviews of student performance. However, the new set of accountability designations are derived from the districtwide performance of all students and subgroups. Jamestown's "focus district'" designation stems from its students with disabilities and limited English proficiency subgroups' performances on the English Language Arts and mathematics state exams from the 2010-11 school year.
Pictured is a focus district fact sheet distributed during Tuesday’s board meeting.
P-J photo by Nicholena Moon
"The state saw that those two particular subgroups were not making adequate progress on our college and career readiness goals," said Daniel Kathman, superintendent.
As a focus district, Jamestown must designate schools within the district as specific focus schools. Jamestown has decided to label all its schools with this designation, in order to "conduct a co-ordinated improvement effort for all its underachieving students, regardless as to the particular building that they may be attending," said Kathman.
Dunkirk and Ripley were also designated as focus districts, along with many other small city schools throughout the state.
Focus districts are required to create a "District Comprehensive Improvement Plan." JPS will not receive any monetary aid from the state to implement new policies, but will be provided with advisory assistance. The school will be able to shed the focus district designation if significant improvement is made within two successive years.
"School-based improvement planning will be initiated promptly, as will the over-arching districtwide planning effort," Kathman said.
That planning effort has yet to be defined, according to Kathman.
"We need to get some more guidance from state ed as to what a good planning process would include, so we are gathering that information and then we will move ahead," he said.
However, the two subgroups, as designated by the state, will not be the districts only focus.
"The way I'm looking at this is we are continuing the overall improvement process with renewed vigor, and it will be augmented by a specific focus on the improvement of the achievement of those two student groups," said Kathman.
When it comes to bolstering the schools' performance levels, the district administration isn't the only responsible party. Jessie Joy, curriculum director, encouraged parents to remain active and involved in their children's education.
"Parent involvement has always been important and now continues to be more important," she said. "Each school will be required to develop their own school-based plan, and I would invite and encourage parents to be active participants in that process."