Last Tuesday, at the start of the new year, elected officials celebrated the school’s latest “report card,” which suggested the turnaround effort has succeeded thus far. Student attendance, college readiness and graduation rates have all surpassed the benchmarks set for the latest school year.
“It’s an ongoing fight, but we wanted to take a moment to let people know things are going the way we want them to go,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik. “It takes time to turn things around, but there is progress being made.”
According to Department of Education (DOE) data, the school’s attendance rate increased 2 percent in the last year, topping at 86.7 percent. Martin Van Buren High School also met the target for college readiness in both city and state measures.
In the four-year graduation rate category, the Queens Village school achieved a 63 percent rate, nearly 10 percent higher than the target of 54 percent. It has surpassed targets for progress toward graduation, school safety and Regents completion rate.
Assemblyman David Weprin said he was pleased with the results, and thanked “dedicated teachers, involved parents and promising students” for making it happen.
“We have another high school well on its way to joining the ranks of the city’s best performing schools,” Weprin said. “I’d like to see even more students choosing Martin Van Buren High School as their top choice.”
Principal Sam Sochet also attributed much of the success to the school’s support system, including the superintendent and the Office of School Renewal.
“None of this is done by one person, this is not an individual game,” Sochet said. “Education, when it’s done right, is a team sport.”
Sochet said all of the statistics are interrelated and connected, but called attendance “the precursor.”
“If kids are aren’t there, you’re not going to hit those other benchmarks,” he said. “The graduation rate is the culmination of all those other things happening. The more good things that happen at school, the more the graduation rate will go up.”
Those “other things” include new partnerships the school has made with local institutions. Sochet said the school has a new health program with Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center, a new pre-law program connected to a law firm in the city, and even a new Model United Nations program.
“We have the architecture in place to make it better and stronger,” he said. “We have the adults and kids to make it better, to make this school a beacon.”
But Sochet said they’re “not there yet” and that there’s still a lot of work to do. Although he’s proud of the progress made so far, there are still milestones he would like to hit.
For example, the principal said he’s concerned about college and career readiness. He is also keen on improving the math scores of his students.
In terms of the benchmarks the city and state have set for the renewal school, Sochet said he just wants to hit all ten again. They were only one of three struggling schools to achieve that progress.
“We want to replicate that,” he said. “I’m very cognizant and reflective of the work that still needs to be done so that we can move Martin Van Buren from what was a struggling school to one that is a school the community can really be proud of.”
With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement of a free public college proposal for families making up to $125,000 a year, Grodenchik provided an optimistic message for students.
“If you do well here, and we expect you will,” he said, “you’ll have a path to college.”