By Barry Warner
Autumn is here, students are back in school and the leaves are starting to display magnificent colors. School Superintendent Dr. Deborah L. Wortham told The Rockland County Times, “We will seek opportunities to increase learning in our buildings and connect with our community on a rising trajectory. Our theme this year is ‘all the way up’. The new school year will start with both a celebration and high expectations for success, as we prepare our students on a path toward college and career readiness in recognition of the district commitment of educating the whole child.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Dr. Wortham talked about the ‘$2.4 million School Improvement Grant’, the ‘2016-2020 Strategic Academic Plan’, ‘Working the Plan and Planning the Work Document’, the International Baccalaureate Program and the High School Commitment Ceremonies.
. Chestnut Ridge Middle School, considered as a ‘priority school’ has been selected to receive federal funding that is aimed at improving student outcomes. The $2.4 million School Improvement Grant will be used to deal with the college and career prospects of students through the federally approved fabric of reform. Priority schools are those that struggle to meet the annual targets for success, based on exam results and graduation rates. The federal funds will permit the district to implement a whole-school model that is designed to promote change with the goal of demonstrating a dramatic gain in student achievement school-wide. Under this program, schools that receive the grant are expected to be in ‘good academic standing’ within three years of receipt of the funds.
. The ‘2016-2020 Strategic Academic Plan’ was developed by a cross-section of East Ramapo educators and external stakeholders for its fourteen district schools, to navigate the journey towards high-performing schools and acceleration of student performance. The five goals and measures of progress include:
- Success in the early years-where an increased percentage of students in grades pre-K through grade two achieve proficiency in early literacy and numeracy.
- Healthy, safe, supported, engaged and challenged-where an increased percentage of students who feel safe and valued in their schools are measured by a valid and reliable perception survey.
- Motivated, confident, empowered critical thinkers-where an increased percentage of students have successful adult-mentor partnerships.
- Mastery of academic subjects and the arts-where there are increased participation and success rates of middle school students and high school students in upper level, AP and honors courses.
- High school graduation and readiness for college and careers-where there is an increased percentage of high school students enrolled in college, career training, the workplace or the military within six months of graduation.
In the document ‘Working the plan and Planning the Work’, the primary aim of planning is unity of purpose or alignment, such as getting people, practices and progress on the same page and going in the same direction-at the same time. Without a plan, there is no focus or clear direction, so a results-focused plan is the first step to turning the future into reality. This results-focused improvement plan will move the school system toward its central purpose, namely: higher levels of achievement for every student by name regardless of the student’s background, condition or circumstance. A number of Pillars of high-leverage practices for root-cause analysis of current state of student achievement include accelerated interventions-where the students not meeting academic expectations receive immediate and targeted academic and social support; differentiation to meet the varied learning needs of each student and an effective teacher for every student and an effective leader for every school to meet specific needs.
According to the website greatschools.org, the International Baccalaureate students are responsible for their own learning, choosing topics and devising their own projects while teachers act more as mentors than sources of facts. The program emphasizes research and encourages students to learn from their peers, with students actively critiquing one another’s work. Beyond preparing students for critical thinking and college-level work, the program calls for students to express themselves through writing, requires community service and aims to create intercultural understanding and respect.
Last year members of the senior classes of Spring Valley High School and Ramapo High School participated in Commitment Ceremonies. Students walked across their individual stages, made pledges to graduate and stated their future plans to choruses of cheers. Students even had props, such as school flags and banners representing colleges they hoped to attend.
The East Ramapo Central School District enrolls approximately nine thousand students who come from ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. East Ramapo School District student demographic information from 2014-2015 indicates that 48 percent are female, 52 percent are male; 39 percent are Black or African-American, 50 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Pacific Islanders, 5 percent are white and 1 percent is multi-racial; 29 percent are English Language Learners (ELL); 21 percent are students with disabilities and 84 percent are economically disadvantaged.
The District received approval by the state commissioner of education for its plan to spend $3 million in aid to restore universal full-day kindergarten and bring back arts, music, dance and theater for students in grades K-6. Under the terms of the oversight bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in June, the district was required to work with its state-appointed monitor Mr. Charles Szuberla on a plan to get its funding.
A public meeting was scheduled for last night, Wednesday September 28th, 2016 at Rockland Community College’s Cultural Arts Center conducted by Dr. MaryEllen Elia, State Commisioner of Education, Mr. Charles Szuberla, State-Appointed Monitor and Dr. John Sipple to discuss the implementation of the East Ramapo Central School District’s Long-Term Strategic and Expenditure Plans.