The New York State Education Department recently announced that Sandy Creek High School has been designated as a Reward School. The only school in Oswego County to receive this recognition, and one of only a handful of schools in the Central New York region, Sandy Creek High School was selected based on its significant progress in several areas and their and the highest achievement in the State with no significant gaps in student achievement.
“We’ve made significant improvement,” said Maureen Shiel, principal at the high school. “What this really means is that we do not have significant gaps in student achievement that are not being closed.”
The school met or exceeded certain benchmarks determined by the SED in all areas including graduation rate, four year graduation rate for students who scored at Level one or Level two on ELA and math assessment tests in eighth grade, increase in Performance Index as determined by calculating the percentage of gain over a two-year period, and a high percentage of students graduating with either a Regents diploma with advanced designation or a Career and Technical Education endorsement.
The high school also exceeded the benchmarks for ELA and Math averages, graduating at-risk students, and overall graduation rate. Sandy Creek High School’s four-year graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year was 88 percent, the state’s average is 66.1 percent. The reward school designation ranks Sandy Creek High School in the top 10 percent in the state.
The recognition is evident in other areas as well. The High School did very well in Oswego County on Regents exams, scoring number one on five of the Regents exams given in June.
Shiel shares these accolades with everyone in the district. “I give credit to the teachers” She said. “All the teachers in this district; we would not be where we are today without the Elementary and Middle School.”
The Sandy Creek achievement goes against the traditional model that declares that high achieving districts are those districts that are the wealthiest, but Sandy Creek has the highest poverty level in the county and of the approximately 700 districts across New York state, Sandy Creek ranks somewhere near the 57th poorest. What are they doing differently?
According to Shiel it is a combination of many things, but she attributes the difference to the caring and dedicated staff in the district.
“Our teachers are very nurturing, and will do what they can during the day to nurture our students,” Shiel said.
The district also boasts a highly successful afterschool program, which allows for intervention and homework help on Mondays and Wednesdays after school. Shiel is grateful for the Board of Education’s continued support for the academic intervention program, which has been utilized by a steady number of students.
Another strong suit in the district is staff longevity, with all district administrators exceeding 10 years on the job, and several over the 30 year mark.
“We are vested in this district,” she said, indicating that five administrators live in the community and their children either currently attend or have attended and graduated from the district. “Those factors have made Sandy Creek what it is.”