Ironically, when the New York State Department of Education (SED) put the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) on notice that three of its 39 schools were among the 57 schools in New York identified as "persistently lowest achieving" it was neither a surprise nor a cause for alarm.
The fact that the SED's assessments of school performance -- the "report cards" that they release every year (well into the next year usually) -- are data based, (with terrific graphs and charts) makes it easy to understand their reasoning.
Theoretically, numbers don't lie, but numbers don't take into account the subjectivity of educational assessment. Numbers may reveal results, of course. When a school district such as Syracuse has 16,000 students living in poverty, it is likely that many test scores will be low.
When 11 percent of a school district is comprised of students who are not first-language-English speakers, (many who have had little education in their own language) many test scores are likely to be low. When two of the three identified schools (Fowler and Delaware elementary) serve the 11th most economically disadvantaged area in the COUNTRY, chances are pretty good that many test scores will be low.
So, when the SED released the numbers for New York State schools in need of improvement, there is little surprise that there are three from Syracuse on the list. What the SED's assessment does not take into account is that Syracuse is already deeply committed to solving not only the problems of these three schools, but the entire urban school district of which they are a part -- and well ahead of the recently released report.
Beginning on page 71 of the United States Department of Education document: Race to the Top: Application for Initial Funding, CFDA Number: 84.395A (ed.gov/programs/ racetothetop/ application.doc#_Toc245553795) are the four models for improvement of the schools in question. It is the choice of each Local Educational Agency (school district) as to which model(s) to implement that will be most effective for their given situation.