The Port Washington Union Free School District was recently visited by New York Times reporter Winnie Hu. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoffrey Gordon met with Ms. Hu over the course of several days, visiting schools, meeting with students, parents and staff and reviewing information. Because Dr. Gordon is frequently contacted as a leading progressive superintendent in the tri-state area, he was contacted by Ms. Hu at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. Ms. Hu became especially interested in the school district when she learned about a number of unique programs here as part of her research for her educational writing for the largest metropolitan newspaper in the United States. The New York Times is regarded as a national newspaper of record.
The Port Washington School District has expanded opportunities for all students. At the elementary schools, gifted and talented education is available for all students through the Port Enrichment Program. The three-pronged PEP program - testing for gifted children admitted to the core program, self-directed challenge workshops for motivated students and full-class instruction for all children - is the only one of its kind known in this area. PEP Challenge workshops appeal to a wide variety of students by offering courses ranging from computer animation to rocketry. In addition, PEP teachers work with classroom teachers and push into classes to differentiate the instruction.
At Weber Middle School, all students do scientific research. The students were observed measuring their running speed by timing 10, 15 and 20-meter runs. As a control, the students ran wearing sneakers. Following this, they followed the same protocol while wearing other shoes of all types - from winter boots to tap shoes. Every student worked on collecting and analyzing the data. Ms. Hu visited classes where students were collecting data and learning about the importance of following research protocols. She also spoke with students, teachers and administrators.
Ms. Hu also met with all the Schreiber students in the Math, Science and Social Science research programs. After the inititial meeting, she met with students Joe Barrett, David Becker, Melis Emre, Amalia Hawkins, Alexandra Hohauser and Matt Varvaro, "It was a very productive conversation;" reports Matt Varvaro. "We had a high-level discussion about important educational issues that usually are discussed without student input - how we feel about class size, electives and extra-curricular activities as well as the way Schreiber allows all students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement classes." During the 2008 - 2009 school year, there are AP classes in 25 subject areas offered at Schreiber. Our high school is tied for first place in Nassau County with Great Neck for the highest number of AP course offerings. AP classes at Schreiber include traditional offerings as well as Art History, Calculus AB and BC, Computer Science, Macro- and Micro-Economics, Psychology, Latin Literature - Writings of Vergil, Statistics and Studio in Art (both Drawing and Photography). Approximately 575 students - roughly one half of grades 10, 11 and 12 - are enrolled in one or more AP classes.
"I am very much in favor of the waivers which allow all students to take AP classes because I have had really good experience getting into classes by using a waiver. I did really well. If you think you can do the work, you should be able to try it, " says student Amalia Hawkins. "Kids shouldn't be routed into non-AP tracks. Some students may take a whole year of nothing but AP classes but other students may choose to be challenged in one subject area... I think that's why an AP Art, Music Theory or Foreign Language is such a great option." Opening AP classes up to more students has actually led to higher achievement. In 2001, 602 students took AP exams, achieving an average grade of 2.87 out of 5. In 2008, 1,134 students took AP exams with an average grade of 3.3 out of 5.
Since assuming the position of superintendent of schools in 2002, Dr. Gordon has encouraged student achievement. He commented to the New York Times how proud he is of the students, staff and community. "As we look with optimism to the future of the greatest democracy in the history of the world," Dr. Gordon explains, "I believe educational inclusion is the progressive path that education will follow in order to continue and expand upon the traditions of this great democracy."