Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
The new school year is well under way.
I admit that I personally dread the week it begins. Maybe because I remember that sinking feeling as the days of summer would wind down and we prepared for homework, books and bedtimes. Nowadays, it’s the never-ending lists of school supplies and the coordination of jam-packed calendars that puts a damper on things.
In that light, many of you have asked me about recent efforts to implement a more rigorous core curriculum and a shift in what many perceive as an overreliance on testing. While I wholeheartedly agree with raising the bar for everyone—students, teachers and parents alike—I actually have reservations about how all this was implemented. I’ve spoken to parents and educators and while there are lots of opinions, this we know for sure: Long Island has consistently produced some of the finest schools in the country. I’m certain that foisting a cookie-cutter approach onto those who’ve already achieved this success is not necessarily helpful. This isn’t political theory, just common sense. Academic rigor is not something we shy away from, but the reality is that we have great schools and the results of our children’s achievements speak for themselves.
Yet there are some districts here that need help. I’ve personally visited many of them and met with everyone: children, parents, teachers and administrators. I’ve seen firsthand that each is unique and requires individualized remedies for very specific challenges. It’s nonsense to think each district or even schools within a given district have the exact same problems. In fact, the inverse is true. There has to be an effort to examine districts on a one-by-one basis, then tailor approaches that solve specific issues. That’s why local school boards exist, because they understand those issues better than anyone. Unfortunately, the truth is they are not always equipped to meet the challenges.
For example, local educators tell me the new standards are worthwhile when students begin their academic career with them and have the advantage of the system the whole way. But they also know that blindsiding older students and asking them to suddenly switch gears and do well without preparation is fruitless. The result has been dismal scores in districts that were historically successful with more challenged districts marred by outright failure. Unfortunately, the
Governor threw fuel on the fire by recently proclaiming a “death penalty” state take-over for those failing schools. It seems these students are inadvertently being set up for failure by a system that required our children be taught certain curricula and now tests them on material they were not even taught. If the State Education Department has decided to roll out a new standard, would it not make better sense to roll out the new tests to those who have had the benefit of the more rigorous lessons?
Here’s some food for thought: I recently met with a local district superintendent who explained that the local high school’s graduation rate hovered at around 97% each year. Yet just a few blocks away, across the district border in Queens, the graduation rate is 47%. Demographically, the two communities are identical so how do we explain the marked difference in performance? I don’t have an answer. It’s an open-ended question, but I suspect that leadership, expectation, and aspiration have a great deal to do with the results.
Success is a manifestation of a community’s combined resolve—those best wishes we have for our children for a better tomorrow and our confidence conveyed through our words and actions that our children can achieve whatever they put their mind and effort to do. We have seen this success cut across demographics in varied communities. But why do some succeed where others do not? That deserves an answer but discovering it and achieving it will take time and great concentrated effort.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The work of government is tedious and we must engage it thoughtfully or we run the risk of doing more harm than good. Hopefully, officials, educators and parents alike will demand the same improvement in our approach that we expect in our children’s grades.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 04 December 2013 14:08) Saturday, 07 December 2013 00:00
The first-grade classes at Hillside Grade School recently held its Thanksgiving Feast. The students made “apple turkeys,” recited poetry, sang songs, and made butter for their corn muffins. During class, they learned about the first Thanksgiving and how children long ago lived.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 04 December 2013 14:03) Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00
A cold windy day did not stop the Manor Oaks School students from running in the Second Annual Turkey Trot recently. Gym Teacher Ms. Innella coordinated the event. In order to take part in the run, students were asked to bring in canned food. The food was donated to local families in need, so they can enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.
The kids had fun running the race. Some students dressed up as Pilgrims, Indians and even turkeys for the costume contest.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
Students at Charles Water Karate & Fitness, located at 122 Hillside Avenue in Williston Park recently participated in the studios 33nd Black Belt Graduation.
“Our goal at Charles Water’s Karate & Fitness is to facilitate mental growth enabling our students to reach their highest potential as human beings,” says Grandmaster Charles Water owner and director of the school. “Our studio teaches students how to defend themselves responsibly while instilling self-confidence, self-discipline and respect for others.”
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The foundation for character building and success starts at home. The schools and role models that impact your child’s life assist in reinforcing the aspirations that you have for your child’s development and future.
Children learn this is Karatatot, a unique program offered by Charles Water Karate & Fitness, located at 122 Hillside Avenue in Williston Park. Karatatot is a combination of exercise and karate in a format specifically designed for children ages 4½ and up. In a fun filled and nurturing setting your children learn concentration, discipline, respect, as well as an understanding of self defense at his or her own level. Children learn child safety and stranger training. They are becoming better students at school and better listeners at home.