While most of us have spent the last days of August lazing about poolside or cramming in as much fun as possible before Labor Day, teachers, administrators and school support staff have been hard at work preparing for the 2012-13 school year.
In the Liverpool and North Syracuse school districts, a number of changes await students and their families as they return to classes Sept. 4 and 6, respectively. Read on to find out what’s new in your district.
Liverpool welcomes four brand-new principals to the fold — Darcy Cangello at Liverpool Elementary, Brett Woodcock at Morgan Road Elementary, Dana Ziegler at Nate Perry Elementary and Michael Baroody at Liverpool High School — and moves Amanda Caldwell to Soule Road Middle School from the high school.
In addition, work at the Liverpool Elementary/Liverpool Middle School campus is nearing completion. The $34 million project, which was approved by voters in May of 2010, began that fall. It included major renovations at both schools, neither of which had seen significant work since the 1970s. The buildings weren’t even in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Now, the complex has improved traffic flow for pickup and dropoff of students, new roofs on both buildings, renovated classrooms, improved HVAC systems, improved plumbing and drainage and improved electrical systems, among other repairs. Work should be completed within the next couple of months.
Finally, parents of elementary-age kids in Liverpool will see a major change in the way report cards are structured, as well as when they’re sent home. For elementary schools only, the district is shifting from quarters to trimesters, and the assessment system has changed so that it better correlates to the New York State Department of Education’s Common Core Standards. North Syracuse’s elementary schools are implementing a similar system for their report cards.
“The new report cards are much more specific and give a better picture of the child as a learner,” said Steven Garraffo, executive director for elementary education and curriculum development for the LCSD. “Parents will be able to identify their child’s strengths and weakness in a particular subject area. Additionally, the standards on the report card directly correlate with what is being taught in the classroom and also allow parents to better understand grade-level expectations.”
Garraffo said schools statewide are changing their elementary assessment systems because of the adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards.
“These standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what K-12 students are expected to learn,” he said. “These new standards and increased expectations for students call for a more specific report card that aligns with the New York state standards and assesses what students need to know at each grade level. The grades on the report card are similar to the evaluation system of a 4, 3, 2 or 1 that students receive on state assessments. The standards-based report card will allow parents to see if their child is meeting the grade-level expectations and then work with teachers to make any necessary improvements.”
Garraffo noted that the new 4-3-2-1 evaluation key does not translate to a specific letter grade — i.e., “4” does not equal “A,” and so on — but rather represent a child’s progress toward a specific standard.
“A ‘3’ on the new report card indicates that a child is meeting grade-level expectations for a specific standard,” Garraffo said.
In addition, the new trimester system will also help both students and teachers prepare for state assessments.
“The extended time between report cards allows teachers more flexibility in instruction and curriculum and gives students more time to meet the established grade-level expectations,” Garraffo said. “The later date for the first report card provides a longer period of acclimation, giving students the opportunity to become familiar with the school routine and their teachers before assessments and evaluations are completed. This promotes more meaningful and detailed conferences, as teachers and parents have a greater chance of identifying and correcting areas of concern during the trimester. The bottom line is the trimester schedule will allow teachers more time to work with students and provide a more accurate description of the child as a learner. This differs from the old first quarter report card where teachers were evaluating students after only working with them for a short while and having limited data to create their reports.”
Garraffo said the whole system was designed by educators within the district.
“This was a teacher-led initiative and that a committee of more than 60 teachers has been working on the new report card for over two years,” he said. “This is a very positive change.”
The North Syracuse Central School District also welcomes a number of changes for the 2012-13 school year. At the elementary level, the NSCSD will be incorporating changes similar to those in Liverpool in order to assimilate to NYSED’s Common Core Learning Standards. On their report cards, students will receive a rubric grade between 1 and 4 for the first time this year on their report card.
With the continued emphasis by the state on assessment tests, North Syracuse’s schools and teachers will be asking more of their students in terms of the “rigor and relevance of their learning.”
“This means that we will be asking students to do more critical thinking, problem solving and higher order analysis of what they read,” said Laurie Cook, public information officer for the district. “This will be a shift in practice and may be difficult at first but these skills will prepare each student to be college and career ready after graduation. We ask that you continue to engage your child in conversation about stories that they have read which helps reinforce their comprehension skills.”
On the plus side, the state’s math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments don’t conflict with spring break this year; last year’s late scheduling shift caused quite the burden for many families. This year’s third- through eighth-grade assessments will take place April 16 to 18 (ELA) and April 24 to 26 (math).
In the meantime, technology upgrades abound district-wide. Smartboards have been installed in all classrooms at Gillette Road Middle School and North Syracuse Junior High School, as well as all sixth-grade classrooms at Roxboro Road Middle School. Roxboro will also welcome full-time teachers from China.
Cicero-North Syracuse High School has made the following administrative changes: Melissa Julian was named the executive principal; Tim Bednarski was named director of athletics and physical education; Jamie Sullivan was named House I principal; and Joseph Dhara was named House II principal.
The high school will also offer a number of new courses this fall. Among them are Project Math and Video Game Design and Production.
Project Math is a full-year math class for students in grades 11 and 12. The integrative computer science-math class is designed to teach students how technology can enhance one’s ability to state problems, pose questions and approach learning as a continuous interaction with the real world. The students will learn how to use a variety of software programs including ALICE (a 3D programming environment that allows students to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web), Scratch (a programming tool similar to ALICE) and Smart notebook (collaborative learning software that allows teachers to create, deliver and manage interactive lessons). They will also learn to program graphing calculators to help solve their problems and answer their questions.
Video Game Design and Promotion, meanwhile, was first implemented last fall. Like Project Math, it uses ALICE to allow students to create virtual worlds with objects and characters. The students then use animation to create movies, commercials and simple games. After completion of their project, students learn how to price, promote and distribute their concept to the marketplace.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.