The Roslyn School District has embarked on a number of ambitious curriculum initiatives this year. Last month, a special Community Forum was organized by the Board of Education's Communications Committee to focus on these initiatives. For the benefit of all parents and residents, I would like to take this opportunity to update the community on the progress we have made in several key areas.
Last summer, the school district introduced a redesigned Academic Summer Program. In previous years, the summer program's focus was divided between academics and recreation. In 2008 we returned to an academic model, with an emphasis on English language arts and math instruction for those students who have completed kindergarten through grade eight. While the four-week Summer Academic Program is open to all Roslyn residents, the curriculum is specifically designed to help children who did not meet the performance indicators for their grade level. The program was described at January's forum by Middle School Assistant Principal Barbara Schultz, who served as the summer program principal. Well over 200 students took advantage of the program last summer.
At the start of the 2008-09 school year, we were proud to open the Roslyn Hilltop Academy, an alternative program at Roslyn High School. The Academy provides an alternative path to school success for some students in grades 8-12 who are unable to live up to their potential in the traditional high school setting. The curriculum meets the same Regents requirements that are demanded of all Roslyn High School students, and all of the Academy's students are expected to go on to college after graduation. High School Assistant Principal Jay Pilnick explained at the forum why, for a certain number of students, the format of a typical high school is just not a good fit, and how the Academy offers a different way for them to reach their academic goals. From a budgetary perspective, the Hilltop Academy is a "win-win": by attracting a small number of tuition-paying students from other districts, and saving the tuition that the district would otherwise have paid for Roslyn students attending other programs, the Academy is designed to pay for itself. (A feature article about the Academy is posted at www.roslynschools.org.)
The Columbia Writing Project is an intensive professional development program through which all of our elementary teachers are learning to be more effective teachers of writing. This program was founded more than 20 years ago at Teachers College by one of the nation's leading experts on literacy education, and has been implemented with great success in numerous schools in New York City, Long Island and around the country. The project is in full swing now in Roslyn, and students in all three elementary schools are experiencing the benefits. At the Community Forum, East Hills Principal Allison Brown, with a little help from two of her school's emerging young writers, showed how the writing project makes writing an integral part of students' school experience. It aims not merely to improve test scores but also to develop a deeper appreciation for reading and writing and promote all-important communication skills. (A more comprehensive article about the writing project is on page five in this issue of The Roslyn News and is also posted at www.roslynschools.org.)
Also reviewed at January's forum on educational issues was the college process. Despite ever-increasing numbers of applicants, Roslyn graduates continue to gain admission into the best colleges and universities in the nation, with comparatively large numbers getting into their first choice of schools through early admissions programs. By reviewing the actual (anonymous) profiles of some former Roslyn students, Dr. Dan Brenner, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, demonstrated how the subjective and imprecise nature of the college admissions process often confounds the expectations of students, parents and educators. Overall, statistical evidence clearly indicates that Roslyn students compete very favorably with students from comparable high schools.
Finally, the forum focused on computer technology, an area in which the district is making great strides. Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Salina, assistant superintendent for administration, the district has introduced a large number of innovations in this area, many of which directly enhance teaching and learning. Some examples include increasing the number of SMARTBoards in the secondary schools, making a video on-demand service available to teachers, increasing bandwidth for the Internet and creating wireless connectivity in school buildings. Even some of the changes in administrative technology have benefits for students: for example, the new telephone system enables teachers to call 911 directly from their classrooms in case of emergency, instead of having to first contact the main office for help. Other initiatives are being implemented to increase security in our schools and improve parents' access to their children's school information.
The presentations at the forum, while comprehensive, did not touch upon every curriculum initiative in Roslyn. For example, foreign language instruction at the middle school was expanded this year so that students are beginning the study of a foreign language a year earlier than before, and some changes proposed in middle school math for next year will enable all students to enter the Regents sequence by eighth grade. In 2009-10 and beyond, we will continue to build upon the strong foundations in curriculum and instruction that the Roslyn school community has always supported.