Sunday, August 14, 2011

In one more very short week our fall sports and activities will fire up and we will be quickly advancing to the beginning of the school year. My body is wired a little differently than most people in that I always feel listless during the summer months when everyone else is getting re-energized. My excitement and energy level makes a huge spike upward once I start seeing students around the campuses once again. This also makes fall my favorite season; again probably not a popular choice for most of you!

Transportation - We are preparing to mail home the new transportation stops for students as well as a letter home to private and parochial school parents inviting them to take part in a special "test bus run day". The plan is to show them how their students will be transferring from one school bus to another as they head to their various destinations. It has been interesting to plan all of these changes to transportation, but judging from the other mandates that the state has chosen to take on recently, they mean business with this one as well and they want more students on buses no matter what!

New York State Grades 3-8 Assessments - You might have read about a change to the New York State Grades 3-8 testing system. CTB/McGraw Hill has been responsible for writing all of the 3-8 assessments for the past few years and the criticism has been that the tests have too many “all of the above” and “none of the above” answer choices as well as too many negatives in the context of the actual questions. Pearson, by far the largest publishing company in the US has won the contract to write Grades 3-8 Assessments for New York State for the foreseeable future. They currently provide assessments for approximately 13 other states.

The benefit of this change from my personal view is that Pearson has excellent textbooks, computer resources, remedial tools, and scoring mechanisms. This will provide a MUCH more consistent environment for a student beginning with their daily instruction and continuing right through the assessment. Pearson is also already aligned to the upcoming “Common Core Standards” as well which will help schools to deliver material and test on material that is actually in the curriculum guides that come from the state. This will hopefully keep your children from coming home and complaining that they “were not taught what was on the test”. I am happy with the change and look forward to the results next summer.

College Preparation -You might have also read about how few seniors are actually prepared for community colleges as well as the state SUNY and CUNY systems. If you look at all of the students who graduate from high schools across the state, about 60% (we are just under 70%) make it to their freshman year in college WITHOUT having to take a non-credit bearing course at a full tuition rate. This has been a problem for years and it is due in my opinion to the large disconnect that exists between the K-12 system and the college system. More conversations have to be held between both groups and an understanding has to be reached as far as expectations are concerned.

Advanced Placement Credits -Also, it has been interesting to see how many schools are reluctant to accept Advanced Placement (AP) credits from high schools. The Advanced Placement course is designed to give students in high school a college level course experience. The curriculum and teachers are approved by the College Board and in the past if the student receives a 4 or 5 on the AP exam (and even in some cases a 3) the credit for the class would transfer to most colleges. In my opinion due to the economy, many colleges would like to see a student pay tuition to them for the same course so they have gotten much more finicky about transferring AP credits from high school.

My personal recommendation would be to challenge AP courses as often as possible while in high school, no matter the outcome. The rigor, regimentation, homework load, and assessments will prepare your student for the demands of a college level course even if the class ends up not being transferrable. We are currently working with local community colleges (one of the best bargains in town by the way) to “triple seat” our college level courses. This simply means that a student could exit a college level course with local high school credit, AP credit, and a community college transcript. I am excited about this possibility as more students choose to work their way through a two year program and into a four-year program.

Student Athlete Concussion Study - We are also studying concussions. These are not the ones that I get from banging my head up against the wall at times, but concussions that our student athletes get during competition. The Ivy League schools developed recommendations, especially for football, that outline how many practices with pads Ivy League football players can have, etc… Usually the tail wags the dog in these cases, so I would expect to see changes in high school athletics regarding care for concussions in the near future considering that players in the NFL do less hitting in practice than high school and college students due to the provisions in their new contract. Any changes that provide for a safer environment for our students are important to me and I will work to see these changes implemented in any way that I can.

School News Notifier (SNN) - Lastly for this blog post, if you have not already signed up for our School News Notifier (SNN) services please take a few moments to do so. I will continue to use Twitter to send out daily messages but our Principals, Athletic and Fine Arts Directors, and I will be using this service to send out other reminders and cool stories that will be important for you to receive. To access the SNN system just go to the District web site home page and click on the SNN logo, or go directly to

Stay tuned for more frequent posts as we get ready to start what will be another awesome school year.