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Welcome to the new Rockville Centre Board of Education Blog.  Our hope is to create a forum to disseminate information and discuss critical issues with the community.  Post your questions on any topic.  Post your thoughts.  Post what you’d like to hear more about.

Please note that this is a moderated blog.  All comments will be reviewed before they are posted.  Please refrain from using the names of students and district employees while commenting as that will not be allowed.  While disagreements are fine, mutual respect is expected, and profanity or abusive language will not be posted

IB History of the Americas for all 11th Grade Students

The Rockville Centre School District prides itself on the college preparation of all of our children.  Two years ago a major step was undertaken in this regard when we began to only offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum to our 11th grade students in English Language Arts. This undertaking, highlighted last year by our highest English Regents passing percentage ever, has been extremely successful.  Now, with an eye toward the future, we take another step in that direction. For the Fall 2014 semester it is our intent to only offer IB History of the Americas for our 11th grade social studies curriculum.

At our Board meeting on March 11th, South Side High School Principal, Dr. Carol Burris and Assistant Principal John Murphy explained that the offering of IB History of the Americas for all will be beneficial to all of our students. This change can be accomplished without any staffing increases and requires only tweaks to the curriculum.  The High School will be prepared to offer support classes for students who might need them as well.  Mr. Murphy explained that although the content in both courses overlap, the primary focus of US History 11R is United States History Regents while IB History 11 focuses not only on the Regents but also gives students much greater depth and breadth of the subject matter.  In addition, students will analyze in detail, primary source documents and improve the skills required for research and the evaluation of those sources. The IB students will undoubtedly be prepared for the US History Regents because the expectations of an IB course far exceed that of any US History Regents course. 

Dr. Burris stated that since 96%-97% of South Side High School students continue on to college, taking this course will give students confidence to do research and analysis so that they will be better prepared for college.  As the District looks forward to the Common Core English Regents, the skills developed in IB classes such as working with informational texts, reviewing and analyzing sources, and being able to write about them, will allow students to practice those skills as they prepare for that challenge.

We believe it is incumbent upon us to ensure we are providing our most rigorous courses of study to all of our students to better prepare them for the work that lies ahead in college and eventually the workplace.  This offering will do just that.  Going forward, all of our graduates will have successfully completed two courses in what is widely known as the best pre college experience one can have.  Our experience in Rockville Centre tells us the more our students are exposed to the IB curriculum, the greater success they have in college and the more likely they are to graduate college in four years. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email us at boe@rvcschools.org or post a comment.

Common Core Update

On Jan 16, 2014 the community came together for a forum on all things Common Core.  This “conversation” was extremely well attended and by all accounts well received.  We should first thank our PTA Presidents’ Council for hosting such an important get together.  Dr. Johnson moderated the forum along with a panel of District staff representing all schools and areas of study.  This was an evening that highlighted our strong commitment to our students and their families.  Parents were able to ask questions of Dr. Johnson and the panel on a wide range of issues in regards to the Common Core Curriculum, State testing and student data collection by the State (InBloom).

 As reiterated throughout the evening, our concern, first and foremost are our students.  We will continue to utilize the rigorous curriculum written by our staff as we always have.  We will also continue to use the NWEA online adaptive assessments to help us determine what our students can accomplish and place less emphasis on the New York State Assessments in grades 3-8. The 45 minute NWEA assessments detail for us student strengths and weaknesses which can be utilized for instruction.  Since the forum, due in part to our community’s concerns around the issue of overly excessive testing, Dr. Johnson announced we will no longer replicate testing conditions in practice tests for our students. This decision will in turn give us back that classroom time for more instruction.  New York State has also recently received a federal waiver from having to give students that are already taking the Algebra Regents, the 8th grade Common Core math assessment.  This means that our 8th graders will have one less Math assessment to take in the spring.

The New York State Board of Regents has been busy of late as well.  They have recently adopted several measures in an attempt to improve the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards. These changes include requesting from the State legislature more funding for professional development and resources related to the Common Core, slowing the phase-in of Common Core aligned Regents exams, providing more testing and curriculum options for students with disabilities as well as several other measures.

Under these changes, The Class of 2022 will now be the first class to face the new graduation requirements based on College and Career Ready benchmarks for the Common Core Regents exams in ELA and Algebra.

We encourage our community members to stay abreast of these and all school issues by attending our public Board of Education meetings.  If you were unable to attend the Common Core Forum or would like to see a replay, click on the link below.  Lastly, as a Board, we will always work to be responsive to the Rockville Centre School Community and look forward to events such as this in the future.

http://media.rvcschools.org/Common_Core_Conversation.htm

Developing 21st Century Students

“The mission of the Rockville Centre Public Schools is to educate our students to become independent thinkers and problem solvers.  It is the District’s goal to empower each student to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s emerging world.”  – Rockville Centre School District mission statement

Technology surrounds us – we carry it with us and work with it everyday.   It is vital that our children know how to use these emerging technologies to enhance their learning, enable more in-depth research and provide them with a wider array of tools for expressing their ideas.

In recent years, the District has been providing students a growing number of opportunities to use technology as a tool for learning.  We have successfully been able to place iPads with our students in all grades and schools throughout the District and are now ready to take an important next step.  Last year, all fifth graders were assigned their own individual iPad, which remained in school.  Beginning this month, we will be providing students in the seventh grade the opportunity to have an iPad assigned to them for use in school and at home. In January, our sixth graders will be provided with this same opportunity. 

iPads are among the exciting tools that advance learning in our classrooms and allow for greater differentiation in teaching.  Students can now borrow books from our digital libraries and take notes, annotating directly on the iPad.  Hard copy books won’t need to be re-purchased year after year.   Students with a research assignment can use their iPad to research via the internet, write and create a video report without leaving their classroom.  Using our new eBackback software, teachers will have the ability to send homework and schoolwork directly to their students.  The work can be done on the iPad and submitted back to the teacher, who can edit, grade, and give feedback to the student.

There are applications already in place throughout the District that are advancing our students’ learning.  In second grade, our teachers are using “Google Maps” to make real-world connections, teaching math and map lessons, where children find their homes and schools.  Using the app, “Nearpod”, our Middle School teachers can create interactive multimedia presentations actively engaging our students.   Our FLES teachers use the free “educreations” app to make movies that reinforce what our students are learning in foreign languages.  The iPad allows us to work with our students at the creativity level, the highest level of revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is an approach to classifying levels of thinking that are important to learning.  Click here to learn more about Bloom’s Taxonomy http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

We are excited by this new venture.  As always, there are concerns with technology and the internet and we have taken precautions.  All internet traffic will be routed through our firewall, including internet access when the iPad is at home.  The use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter IS NOT allowed on any school computer.  However, our best precaution is the partnership we have with our parents and guardians. Please stay involved and watch what your children are doing with their iPads!

Distribution of iPads to students in the seventh grade will take place in November 2013. Distribution to our sixth grade students will take place in January 2014.  Parents will be required to sign an iPad Agreement prior to distribution.  If parents choose not to sign the agreement, students will still have access to iPads in school, but will not be permitted to take them home.  We are providing, through a third party, discounted insurance for the devices that will be offered to RVC parents.  Please visit our Middle School iPad webpage at www.rvcschools.org and click on the link for iPads under web resources for further information.  We look forward to sharing our findings with the community as we move forward with this exciting 21st century education initiative.

School Improvement Bond Update – October 2013

At our October 22nd Board of Ed meeting we finalized the plans for construction at South Side High School and at Watson Elementary School.   Since the beginning of the school year, the focus at our meetings has been to review and approve the architectural renderings of each building.  The plans are now in the hands of our firm, BBS Architects, who will complete all necessary drawings and submit the plans to the New York State Education Department for approval.   We are on schedule to begin work, as planned, in June 2014.

At South Side High School, the twelve classrooms that are currently housed in portable trailers and converted garages will be made part of the main building in 2 new additions.   The plans include updated science and lab facilities, a new and improved Music Lab and an exciting new location for the library that will allow for moveable stacks and flexible learning areas to facilitate group and individual learning.  An expanded new fitness center is included to house the additional equipment that was awarded to the School District in a 3-year Physical Education Program Grant.   On campus, the field will be reconstructed with turf, the bleachers will be replaced, and the track will be resurfaced.   Thanks to a generous donation, lights will be installed at the main field, extending our practice days and allowing for more games to be played at home.   An option of adding a small additional portion to the north side of the building is being considered which will include space for a concessions stand and restrooms.

At Watson Elementary School, three classrooms and a small-group instruction space will be added.  Since class size is dependent upon building enrollment, the new classrooms will allow for additional grade level classes and/or dedicated spaces for Art and Music.  The parking lot has been expanded and 16 spaces will be added, almost doubling the capacity.   Safety is always our highest priority.  We have been able to increase the parking on campus while maintaining the field and Blacktop area for use within the school day by our students, after school by our athletic teams, and on the weekends by our entire community.

 For the most up-to-date information about the School Improvement Bond and to view the plans for the Northwest and Southeast additions to South Side High School as well as the addition to Watson Elementary School please visit the School Improvement Bond Update page here. Videos can be found on this webpage or on the School Channel; Cablevision channel 19 within Village of Rockville Centre, and on Verizon channel 36. For a full list of Board of Education Meetings please visit our webpage at www.rvcschools.org or click here.

Welcome to our 2013-14 school year!

Welcome to our 2013-14 school year!  We hope that everyone has had a wonderful summer and is experiencing smooth transition into the new school year.

Much work was done over the summer to prepare for the new school year.  Classrooms have been painted, floors have been sanded and refinished, and tile work has been completed.  Some of the work approved in the School Improvement Bond has begun.   At South Side High School, the gymnasium floors were refinished and new bleachers were installed. At South Side Middle School the old and damaged track was removed and drainage and a new surface were installed. Also as part of the Bond, air-conditioning units have been installed in classrooms throughout the district, and installations will continue through the school year.

Our architects have been working on the finished drawings of the additions to South Side High and Watson Elementary Schools.  Meetings have been held with central administration, building principals and teachers to gain input on the best way to achieve our goals of providing a safe, secure and appropriate 21st century learning environment. At our September 25th meeting, BBS Architects will present these plans and we will be discussing them in detail prior to seeking New York State approval.

Over the coming days parents of students in grade 4-9 who took last year’s State assessments in ELA and Math will be receiving in the mail their child’s assessment results.  As we are sure you are aware, this past year’s tests were based on the more rigorous Common Core State standards.   While we are obligated to send home these test results, we feel equally obligated to tell you these current scores are in no way true reflections of our students’ ability to learn or our staff’s ability to provide instruction.   For parents in grades 4, 5 and 6 we will be sending home the NWEA test results along with the State results.  We believe the NWEA is a better predictor of what our students are capable of and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.  At our next Board meeting, there will be a presentation on student assessments and how the District is using the State assessments along with the NWEA.

We invite you to join us at our next Board meeting on September 25th at South Side High School at 7:30 pm. We want to thank the many members of the community who have come to our meetings and contributed their thoughts. Video of this and past meetings can be found on this webpage or on the School Channel, Cablevision channel 19 within Village of Rockville Centre, and on Verizon channel 36.  As always, feel free to email us at boe@rvcschools.org or post a comment to the blog.

Balancing of Class Sizes

There is important news coming from your Board of Education!

At the meeting on July 9th, the Board adopted a resolution to balance class sizes throughout the district’s elementary schools.  We are providing an opportunity to allow parents who have children in classes with an average class size greater than 23 to choose another elementary school where the average class size is 19 or less.

This is a departure from previous District procedures.  Currently, our elementary students attend the school that is zoned for their neighborhood.  This method has served us well for many generations.  But, this opportunity is one which many parents have requested for many years.

The opportunity that we are instituting makes smart use of our available resources, without adding additional cost.  This is very important to us and to the community.  We would certainly be opposed to this change if it would jeopardize the learning environment for our elementary students. 

A copy of the Board’s resolution will be sent home to all families that have eligible children.

So, just how would this work?

  • If your child is scheduled to be in a class where the average grade class size in the building is greater than 23 students, you would have an opportunity to choose another elementary school whose average class size in that same grade level is 19 or less.

 

  • Parents may request the school to which they would like to have their children sent. The District will make every effort to honor these requests but reserves the right to designate the building which eligible children will attend.

 

  • Students who opt-in to this program must remain through the school year, but have the option of staying in their “new” school or returning to their home through 5th grade.

 

  • Brothers and sisters of the eligible children will also be considered for a transfer to the same building as long as the receiving class average in the grade assigned will not exceed 23 students.

 

  • Transportation will be provided according to District policy to those students who are selected to attend class in another elementary building.

 

Click here to read our resolution and if eligible, consider it for your family.  Again, our goal is to balance the class sizes throughout the District using our current resources. All of our elementary buildings provide a wonderful learning environment for our children.  Yes, there are slight differences between them, but they all have ONE common goal — Educate our children to the best of their ability.

High School Rankings – What’s Behind the Numbers?

There are a number of lists that rank high schools in an attempt to measure quality.  Each has its own set of metrics—that is, those factors that the creator of the list values. Those metrics often change from year to year, thus leading to greater confusion. In addition, a miniscule difference of hundredths of a point often separates one school from the next.

The good news is that the performance of South Side High School students has never been better. In fact, the high school continues to improve on measures that matter.  Here are the facts…

  • Our Regents diploma rate during the past five years has increased to 99%.
  • Our IB Diploma rate has increased as well. In 2010 and 2011, 30% of the entire graduating class graduated with an IB Diploma. In 2012, it went up to 34%.  All three of these percentages are truly outstanding.
  • The percentage of IB scores that are 4 or better is on the increase as well. In 2010, 70% of the scores were 4 or better. In 2011, it was 76%.  Last year it rose again, to 77%. 

Why then, might the school’s rating on a list go down, even though our students are becoming more successful?

In order to answer that question, we need to look at the lists themselves.

US News and World Report

This list first screens schools based on performance on Math and English Regents exams.  It then ranks schools based on participation and performance on either IB or AP exams, whichever is the bigger program.  In the case of South Side High School, it is the IB program.  US News obtains the data from outside sources.  Looking at the 2011 metric, it appears that US News used the exams and scores of IB students  in 11th and 12th grade and divided that number by the number of students in the  graduating class of 2010.  This year, it appears they used only the tests and scores accrued by graduating seniors of the Class of 2011. That  change in the metric resulted in our ranking going down, even though the percentage of students scoring a 4 or better increased by 6 percentage points, and participation rates remained stable.

It is also important to keep in mind that most of the schools at the top of the list are test-in schools. These are schools that enroll students based on their performance on a test , such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant High Schools. Others are charter schools, which also may screen students, and insist that all students take AP and or IB exams in Grades 9-12.  South Side High School is an open-enrollment school, which means that every student who lives in the district is admitted and welcomed at any time in the school year. 

DailyBeast/ Newsweek

This list began a few years ago.  (The original Newsweek list moved to the Washington Post). First, it is based on self-reported data. Second, this new list rewards factors that value elitism and limited access to IB/AP courses.  For example, average SAT scores are included in the measure (10%).  Schools such as ours that do a great job encouraging all students to take the SAT are disadvantaged when compared to schools that do not promote college entrance tests for all students.  It also does not use the scores of the school’s larger program—it averages the IB and AP exam scores evenly, even though we have far fewer students who take AP.  IB schools are disadvantaged in the process. We expressed our concerns to the DailyBeast, and we hope that at least this aspect of the list will be addressed.  This list also includes the exclusive test-in schools as well.

Washington Post

This is the original list of rankings, formerly called the Newsweek Top 100.  This list, using self-reported data, simply ranks schools on the number of IB and AP tests taken by students. It does not include how students do on the exams.  We continue to have outstanding numbers on this metric, however, the number of charter schools and test-in in schools continues to increase in urban areas, filling in the top positions.  We “fall in ranking” not because South Siders are taking fewer exams, but because schools such as these continue to come into existence.

South Side High School eliminated student ranking more than a decade ago, in large part because it pits one student against another, and sends the message that the success of one comes at the expense of their classmates. Our success, and the success of our children, does not come at the expense of others. Each year, South Side continues to feature prominently on these lists, but our position varies due to factors that are either beyond our control or represent values that we do not encourage, such as restricted access to educational resources.  Our students continue to thrive and succeed while they are here and after graduation. We appreciate the recognition we receive when outside agencies evaluate our work, but must also be wary of the metrics or criteria being used, especially when they run counter to the values and mission statement of the district and its leadership. Perhaps, some day there will be a metric that rewards excellence and equity, participation in extracurricular activities, and the social and emotional health of students. That would be a wonderful list to be on indeed!

Thank You for Supporting the Budget

We would like to thank the community for their overwhelming support in passing our 2013/2014 School Budget.   It would not have been possible without the efforts of the many people and organizations throughout our School District. We are committed to providing our children with the excellent education that District residents have come to expect. We know that we can continue to improve and are open to suggestions that are made by parents and educators.  We rely on the community for this input and feedback. All Board of Education meetings are open to the public.  You can also contact us by sending an email to BOE@rvcschools.org, posting on our Facebook page, or commenting on the Board of education Blog.

Once again, we thank you for your support of our schools and our children.

 

 

Budget Vote May 21st, 2013

At our annual Preliminary Budget Hearing held on Wednesday, April 17th, the proposed budget for the 2013/14 school year was adopted and will be voted upon by our community on May 21st.  This year our focus was to stay within the tax levy cap while maintaining the outstanding programs and opportunities that our District offers to all of our children.  In addition to these programs, the proposed budget will support the addition of a High School Varsity boys’ swim team as well as the introduction of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program into South Side Middle School. 

The proposed budget for the 2013/14 school year is set at $100,748,352. This is a 3.59% increase over last year’s budget.   Since the budget is within the tax levy cap, a simple majority will be required to pass the budget. 

For the second year in a row, there was an appeal to the Board of Education for the inclusion of a boys’ swim team in the school budget.  We hope that many of our students take advantage of this new opportunity.

The Middle Years Program (MYP) provides a framework of academic challenges that encourages students to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world, as well as to become critical and reflective thinkers. The program aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people.  The MYP fits in with the new Common Core curriculum which is already being implemented throughout the schools.  Our intention is to pair the MYP with the Common Core to create an outstanding educational platform for all of our middle school students.

We are committed to maintaining the highest standards in education while being fiscally responsible.  We recognize the value of our tax dollar, and the investment made in our children and our community. That is why we are asking you to come out and VOTE!

Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 21st from 7 AM to 9PM at South Side High School.

Thank You for Supporting The Bond

We would like to thank the community for their enthusiastic support in passing our School Improvement Bond.   This would not have been possible without the many people and organizations throughout our school district who came together, recognizing the need, addressing the problems and working on the solutions! Over the next few months the Board and Administration will be discussing in detail our plans before they are sent off for approval to New York State.   We will set up a webpage to keep you informed of the status of the bond projects as they progress. 

Once again, we all thank you for your support of our schools and our children.