State Chancellor: How Have Middletown Schools Achieved So Much?
State Chancellor: How Have Middletown Schools Achieved So Much?
Chancellor, regent, and assemblywoman see school district as a standout in New York

MIDDLETOWN—Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents Betty Rosa visited Middletown High School and Presidential Park Elementary School on Sept. 6 to learn what makes the school district so special.

(L-R) Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Judith Johnson, and Deputy Superintendent Richard Del Moro in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)
(L-R) Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Judith Johnson, and Deputy Superintendent Richard Del Moro in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)

The Enlarged City School District of Middletown Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood, administrators, teachers, students, and staff told Rosa what has made the district a standout, despite having a majority of the students coming from poor backgrounds.

What makes Middletown so special to have achieved so much?
— Judith Johnson, regent, New York State Board of Regents

How’d They Do It?

Regent Judith Johnson asked, “What makes Middletown so special to have achieved so much?” There were many answers at many levels.

The district won a $20 million federal Race to the Top grant in 2014 and reported notable results with a two-year kindergarten program.

This year the high school celebrated an 85 percent graduation rate. “It cuts across all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds,” said Richard Del Moro, deputy superintendent for instruction. This is in sharp contrast to 2004, which saw a 52 percent graduation rate.  

Educational consultant Dale Mann conducted studies on the district’s programs and said the district had a “remarkable and data-based, evidence-based record.” 

He found two reasons for Middletown’s success: Many layers of data, feedback, analysis, and supervision. Mann said that when the Race to the Top grant was offered, Middletown had educational programs in place with everything ready to go.

The district was already building its technology capacity, training teachers as literacy specialists, and developing solid data. 

Success Despite Poverty

Middletown students are about 75 percent ethnic minorities and most get free or reduced-priced lunch. Eastwood said that, despite the fact that many students come from poor families, it doesn’t mean they can’t effectively problem solve and be successful in life.

Tracey Sorrentino, principal of the high school, said they “work to personalize.”

“They bring us their interests and we find the program and coursework to get them ready to go out into the real world,” she said.

Tracey Sorrentino, principal of Middletown High School, during visit of Board of Regents chancellor in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)
Tracey Sorrentino, principal of Middletown High School, during a visit by the Board of Regents chancellor in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)

With the low graduation rate in 2004, Del Moro said, “There embarked our venture—trying to find out what is going on—and we took a very systematic approach.”

An underlying factor in student learning comes from respect, Eastwood said. The district strives “to respect every individual child, how they learn, what they need to learn well.” He said students learn how to solve problems in life, not how to do well on a “paper and pencil” test.

The chancellor, regent, and assemblywoman spent most of their time talking with students. Andrew Gonzalez, Tamara Senior, Nnenna Eze, and Travis Grogan, all seniors, told the visitors their views of the district’s success.

(L-R) Chancellor of the Board of Regents Betty Rosa, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, and Regent Judith Johnson speaks with Middletown high school students (left) in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)
(Seated right, from L-R) Chancellor of the Board of Regents Betty Rosa, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, and Regent Judith Johnson speak with Middletown high school students (seated left) in Middletown on Sept. 6, 2016. (Yvonne Marcotte/Epoch Times)

Grogan said he has known most of his teachers since he started school and it feels like his family. Gonzalez said he and his family have received so much that he feels he must give back.

Rosa said Middletown’s success story has to be told. “We just need to unpack this and try to tell this story,” she said.

To contact this reporter, email yvonne.marcotte@epochtimes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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