Warwick superintendent and Board of Education lay out ambitious, ten step 'strategic plan' for students

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:15

    Strategy urges greater emphasis on math, science and foreign language to compete with Chinese and other international students in 21st century Warwick — Just back from a week-long trip to China, Warwick Superintendent of Schools Dr. Raymond Bryant presented “Ten Steps to High School Rigor, 21st Century Skills and College Readiness” to parents and community members attending Monday night’s regular Board of Education meeting. The superintendent thanked the board for the opportunity to make the trip, which was arranged and sponsored by the College Board and Confucius Institute. Some 420 people from school districts around the country attended, including 40 individuals representing schools in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, traveling to the northeastern part of China. Bryant came away from the experience with a sense of urgency: in order to compete successfully with their counterparts in China and elsewhere, Warwick’s students will need to increase their coursework in math, the sciences and foreign language - especially, (Mandarin) Chinese. Bryant noted that American colleges are recruiting Chinese students, because they have at least four to five years of chemistry or physics under their belts, as well as the ability to speak English. He alluded to recent media reports noting that some 40,000 students are coming from China to study in American universities - to the great detriment of American students: “We gotta have a product that colleges absolutely want (i.e., better-prepared students).” The groundwork will be laid at the elementary grade level. To comply with the new Core Standards, pre-algebra will begin in grade 7. Math teachers at the middle school and high school will meet to review Core Standards and to bring the curriculum in line. School counselors will meet with students to review the need for academic rigor with each student, particularly with regard to AP exams. The district plans to launch 8th grade assessments aligned with the SAT; all 10th and 11th graders now take the PSAT. As part of its commitment to increased academic rigor, the district is moving ahead with the elimination of late arrival/early release for seniors, except for those involved in job shadowing, Senior Project, mentoring or service projects or for internships. The school board expects that higher standards for Honor Roll, increased academic rigor and better preparation for standardized achievement tests will culminate in “passionate” college essays and “excellent” references. Teachers, students and parents will have access to Naviance, an online service that, amongst other things, assists students with course planning, college planning and career planning. Schools can check whether their students apply to and enroll in college and whether they’ll succeed once they get there. The district expects to implement Naviance at the middle school, making it available to all eighth-graders by February 2012. Other work to date The district has opened the Parent Portal. From the district’s Web site: “When you enroll in the new Parent Portal program, you will be able to view information about your child, including: emergency contacts, attendance, discipline, schedule, report card grades and grades 3-8 State Assessment results. Click here http://www.warwickvalleyschools.com/District/parentportal/parent_portal.cfm to learn more and to enroll.” The school district has installed and/or rehabbed more than 250 computers; repaired and installed 26 Smart Boards; installed 30 arms for Smart Boards; is exploring a pilot of Kindles or similar e-reader tablets; developing teacher websites at the elementary, middle and high schools. In other business Confusion about 2 per cent property tax cap The public still is unclear about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent property tax cap: the cap is on the levy, not on the tax itself. “It’s incredibly complicated,” said school board president David Eaton. (Please see the school district’s Web site at the following link: http://www.warwickvalleyschools.com/District/newsmore/district_newsarchives_1112.cfm and click on October, 2011, and click on “What do YOU need to know about New York’s Property Tax Cap? (pdf)”) Board president warns of tough times ahead Eaton warned of a dire budget situation ahead, based on a recent meeting he attended with other school board members from around the region. Because of the continuing poor state of the economy, he noted that many districts will face similar problems come budget time, and added, “We’re all in the same boat.” Superintendent’s community forum The district’s PTAs will host a superintendent’s community forum on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. at the middle school. Peter Van Buskirk, founder of The Admission Game (TAG), will be the keynote speaker. The forum will be an opportunity for concerned community members to discuss what it values in education, the importance of foreign language, math, science and the arts, what the future of education in the district should look like and how best to prepare students for life after school. The next regular monthly meeting of the school board will be Monday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m., at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center. Ten Steps to High School Rigor, 21st Century Skills and College Readiness: Step 10: A passionate college essay and excellent references Step 9: 50 hours of quality service learning and leadership activities Step 8: 1700 SAT (score), 26 ACT Step 7: 3 on AP exams Step 6: Plan for four years of math, science and five to six years of foreign language Step 5: Algebra 2 by grade 10; 85 on the Regents Step 4: Algebra by grade 8; 85 on the Regents Step 3: Pre-algebra begun in grade 7 Step 2: High 3 or 4 on N.Y.S. Assessments in grades 3-8 Step 1: Advanced reading and math in grades K-2