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Alt ed consultant says Massena’s program has grown since 2007

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MASSENA - An alternative education consultant who helped the Massena Central School District launch their own program in 2007 says that, after doing a study this year, he has seen a marked improvement over the years and even since he last looked at it in the fall.

The “bottom line,” Dr. Gerry Friedman told board of education members Thursday, is that students are faring better academically since their arrival at the Alternative Education School.

He said that, during a visit in the fall, he learned there wasn’t a lot of collaboration going on between teachers which, in turn, would help the students.

But that had turned around by the time he visited in the spring, Dr. Friedman said

“It was wonderful. The school was running almost like a well-oiled machine,” he said, noting students were learning, teachers were using collaborative techniques, the students liked the program and were respectful of teachers and other students, and they believed they were learning more because of the smaller class sizes.

“The important thing is how the students felt was making a difference in their grades. By and large almost everybody is passing their subjects and passing pretty well,” he said.

Dr. Friedman said the biggest improvements for students who had been in the program for more than a year were in grades seven, nine, 10 and 11.

“Grade eight isn’t doing so well, but students are passing,” he said.

Students who had been in the program for one year or less who were also showing progress, according to the consultant. He said all of the students were failing at least one course last year, and many of them had failing averages for all courses.

“This year at the same time all have passing averages and only one student is failing one course,” Dr. Friedman said.

Attendance was another area he examined during his visit to Massena, and he said the number of average absences for students in grades seven, nine, 10 and 11 were about the same, while grade eight was higher than normal.

“Some students missed a day or two. Some missed 10 to 20 percent of the days,” he said. “By and large, attendance is wonderful and that’s the important thing to take away.”

Students were asked to rank questions, such as “Learning more in Alt than I did in ‘old’ school,” and most of them responded “Always.”

Most students also responded “Always” when they were asked if it was easier to find someone to talk to when they were upset, Dr. Friedman said.

Parents shared similar sentiments, he said.

“He enjoys going (to school) more than he doesn’t,” one parent replied.

“Some of those kids wouldn’t make it,” another parent said.

“Kids will stay and graduate,” one parent told Dr. Friedman.

He also interviewed staff members about the program.

“This staff was by and large very positive about school. They were also very nervous about next year,” he said.

Following his latest review, Dr. Friedman has some recommendations to make the program even better, including additional staff training, visiting other alternative schools, providing more meeting time for the staff and coming up with a “real name” for the program.

“It needs some kind of name,” he said.

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