NORTH SHORE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING, 10.6.16
ANOTHER DISTRICT PARENT QUESTIONS REASONABLENESS OF NORTH SHORE ATHLETICS ATTENDANCE POLICY
October 10, 2016 -- During the public comment period at theThursday October 6th Board of Education meeting, a district parent appealed to the board to change a North Shore High School Athletic Department policy that mandates that a JV or Varsity student athlete who has three unexcused absences from practices be expelled from the team.
It was the third time in the past five months that a parent has questioned the policy’s reasonableness and appropriateness.
The parent explained that her daughter this past summer travelled with her family to Ireland to attend a family reunion which included a celebration of her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and a renewal of their marriage vows. The event had been scheduled for the second to last week of August (two weeks before the start of the school year) to accommodate the start of her daughter's JV soccer season which in previous years had begun a week before the start of school. The travel arrangements and reservations were finalized in October 2015. At a team meeting in June the child learned that practices would begin a week earlier than usual and that she would be excluded from the team (one for which there were no try-outs and cuts) for the entire season if she travelled to Ireland rather than attend that first week of practices. Too late to change the date of the event, reservations and other accommodations for the 16 people travelling to Ireland, the parent said she followed the chain of command - appealing to the coach, then to the athletic director, for leniency, and then finally at the end of the summer to the Superintendent to no avail. At Thursday’s public meeting, the parent did not ask that an exception be made for her daughter, but rather appealed to the board to consider changing the policy so that other serious and committed student-athletes would not also be unjustly impacted. None of the seven board members offered their thoughts on whether they believed the policy was appropriate or not.
Last spring, a couple urged the board to change the policy after their daughter was expelled from the varsity softball team for missing three practices to participate in the women’s ice hockey junior nationals tournament. At the time there was no clear definition in the attendance policy of an excused or unexcused absence. In response to the parents request, the school board directed two committees - the Athletic Policy and Athletic Advisory Committees, to revisit the policy.
In June, Trustee Joanna Commander, who sits on both, reported to the full board that the committees wanted to keep the policy in place. After additional direction from one board trustee to develop clear bullet points as to what constitutes an unexcused absence for inclusion in the Athletic Department's Interscholastic Handbook posted on the District's website, the committee’s did so. According to the handbook, there are only three acceptable reasons for being absent from a practice - "sick; family death; religious observance."
Dr. Melnick and Board President Toni Labbate have asserted that it is a Athletic Department policy and not a board policy and that the Board ought to defer to the two committees.
“If the board should decide to change the policy,” Dr. Melnick said on June 16, “it would be acting against the will of those who are involved in the program and are committed to the program.”
“If the board were to intervene with regard to this policy, then you would have an obligation to intervene across the board with regard to all extra-curricular activities,” he continued. “If you’re going to manage at this level, I don’t think you can be exclusive to one area or program.”
He did say however, that parents could appeal an expulsion to the school board.
At the September 6 meeting another parent asked if it was considered an “excused” absence if a student missed practices as a result of participating in a school sponsored academic trip such as the cultural exchange trips to Europe that occur each year. The reply was it was not an excused absence. The parent asked if the board was o.k. with that, and two trustees expressed that they had concerns and did not believe that the policy had been finalized. Dr. Melnick said that they had agreed to attendance policy at the June meeting and urged the trustees to look at the minutes of that meeting.
At this past Thursday’s meeting, the same parent asked if they had looked at the minutes, and the board replied that it had and that the board had ok'd the policy. The parent suggested that the board look at the video recording of the meeting. He also questioned whether the two committees that developed the policy were comprised of a fair representation of viewpoints. The parent said that he had done some research and could not find another district that had a similar policy, and said that he believed the Garden City School District’s student-athlete contract provides a good model for this district. He read aloud a section of the contract which states, “the athlete is expected to place athletic competition in its proper perspective. It represents only one part of the learning process and should not be pursued to the exclusion of everything else.”
KINDERGARTEN PROGRAM EMPHASIZES PURPOSEFUL PLAY
North Shore Director of STEM, Dr. Carol Smythe and kindergarten teacher Linda Burgos presented to the school board this past Thursday on the District’s kindergarten program - and in particular how teacher directed “purposeful play” is used to educate the district’s youngest students.
The introduction of the Common Core learning standards a few years ago, explained Ms. Burgos, led play “to take a backseat to more traditional learning activities.” Also with new technologies that pre-occupy children during leisure time and with their lives being more closely managed than children in past generations, she said that “sometimes kids come to school not knowing how to play.”
But now that teachers have become more comfortable with the standards, she continued, “purposeful play” in which teachers put students in authentic situations that require them to complete various fun tasks have become a central part of a Kindergartener's day. She cited as an example a lesson in which students must run a mock pizza shop, preparing a menu, providing service, and engaging in money transactions.
“We hope to continue to explore the role of purposeful play as a vehicle to engage all students not only in developing their understanding, knowledge and skills,” Ms. Burgos said, “but also in fostering the district’s shared value outcomes.” Those outcomes include teaching children to be "collaborators, communicators, thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and committed individuals.
Following the presentation, Trustee Sara Jones said that in speaking to Kindergarten parents at Sea Cliff School she has heard concerns about the amount of homework their children are getting as well as there not being enough time devoted to recess where students can engage in more self-initiated play.
Trustee David Ludmar said that “there is great potential for differences” among the three elementary schools’ Kindergarten programs and asked how that could be addressed.
Dr. Smythe responded that while there is teacher autonomy, there are commonalities between the programs and that opportunities are provided to teachers to share ideas through “collegial circles.”
Dr. Melnick said that objectives are the same in each of the schools and that students will get to the same place at the end of the year, even if the route they take is different.
During the public comment period a kindergarten parent spoke and said that she believed it was very important to integrate play into the kindergarten school day. She did, however express concern about the amount of homework that is given. Her child she says, often receives 60-90 minutes of homework in a night and that the dittos are often “uninspiring and of poor quality.” She suggested that there be more “experiential” assignments.
An elementary school principal, who was seated in the audience, said that at that grade level a student should not receive more than 10 minutes of homework per night.
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NORTH SHORE LIKES TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT -- Athletics Director Don Lange and Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick, standing with the district's five building principals, announce that their schools are recipients of the "Let's Move Award," the nation's top physical education and physical activity distinction for K-12 schools. North Shore's five schools were among the five hundred and forty-four across the country, and only six on Long Island, recognized for their outstanding efforts in creating an Active School environment. The award, part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Initiative, celebrates a school’s commitment to providing students with at least 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after school each day.
SUPERINTENDENT EMPHASIZES IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTIC EDUCATION IN ANNUAL STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT REPORT
October 10, 2016 -- Advising the audience and the school board to not focus exclusively on test scores and asserting that the most valuable educational program is one that helps develop in students the skills and qualities that are necessary for success in college and in life but that are not so easily measured by standardized tests, Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick presented this past Thursday evening his annual report on student achievement.
He introduced his presentation with a video that depicted a courtroom scene in which a lawyer, speaking in a sort of Hamilton-style rap, puts traditional education on trial for its lack of creativity and one size-fits-all factory system approach.
“Don’t be under the assumption that test scores are what we’re about,” Dr. Melnick said.
Additionally, he explained that the 40% opt-out rate of students in grades 3-8 last year, undermines their usefulness in assessing how well the district prepares its students for the exams or how the district did on the tests relative to its peer districts.
The Superintendent then quickly ran through a series of slides with bar graphs comparing North Shore’s 2015-16 results to previous year’s results, and the results of peer districts and New York State.
As for the grades 3-8 math and English/Language Arts results, Dr. Melnick showed slides comparing the percentage of North Shore Students earning 3’s (proficient) and 4’s (mastery) to peer districts such as Roslyn, Locust Valley, Syosset, Manhasset, Port Washington, and Great Neck. In most cases, North Shore’s scores were in the middle to high range within that peer group.
The success of the district’s English Language Arts program, he said, was best illustrated by the 11th grade Regents exam, as it is represents the cumulative impact of 12 years of study - from kindergarten through 11th grade. 100% of juniors passed the exam last year with 90% achieving mastery level (85% or higher).
As for the other Regents exams administered in grades 8-11, the passing rate was 98-100% for most, with a couple a bit lower, but still in the 90’s. The mastery rate, for which students must score 85% or higher, ranged from a low of 20% on the Geometry exam administered to 9th graders (91% passing rate), to a high (not counting the English exam) of 83% on the United States History Regents (99% passing) administered to 11th graders.
On the College Board Advanced Placement exams, the passing rate (scores of 3, 4, and 5) was 80%.
On International Baccalaureate (IB) Assessments, 58% of students scored 5,6, or 7 (comparable to the AP’s 3,4, and 5) while 40% scored 3 (“mediocre”) or 4 (“satisfactory). Students receive a certificate of completion for receiving a 4 or higher. No distinction was made between those earning 3s and those earning 4s.
This year, he said, 70% of juniors and 50% of seniors are enrolled in at least one IB course.
As for SAT scores, the average score of last year’s seniors on the verbal section was 572 out of a possible 800 and 591 out of 800 on the math section.
90% of last year’s graduates, Dr. Melnick said, are now attending a four-year college, while 8% percent went on to a two-year school.
60% of graduates were accepted to four year colleges rated “most highly competitive” or “highly competitive.”
During the discussion that followed, Trustee Lara Gonzalez congratulated the district on its “outstanding” 4 year college admission rate. She said that she believed that although the opt-out rate in grades 3-8 was high there was valuable information that could be taken from the 3-8 Common Core exams. As for the 80% passing rate on AP exams, she advised against being overly selective with regard to admitting students into those classes since the College Board’s recommended passing rate for schools is significantly lower.
Dr. Melnick replied that the high school has an open enrollment policy for AP and IB courses.
Trustee Dr. Herman Berliner said that it is important to look at other measures, and would like to see greater success in programs like the Intel Science Talent Search.
Dr. Melnick said a few minutes later that he did not think a program should be judged by the number of winners, but by other measures of innovativeness.
Trustee Marianne Russo reached out to High School Principal Albert Cousins, who was seated in the audience, and appealed to him to restore the one year Advanced Placement United States History class that has been replaced by the two year IB History of the Americas course. She said the high mastery rate on the Regents exam indicated that a large percentage of juniors, who might not want to take the two year IB course, among them special education students, would be more inclined to take the AP class. Mr. Cousins replied that are many special education students enrolled in the IB History of the Americas course.. He added that all students in that class can still opt to take the U.S. History Advanced Placement exam at the end of their junior year, and that 70% of those who did so last year passed the exam with a 3, 4, or 5.
Trustee Berliner urged the Superintendent to consider collecting data on how many North Shore graduates graduate college in 4 years and 6 years respectively. That, he explained, would give the district a good idea of how well it prepares its students for study at the university level.
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