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Letter: Setting The Record Straight

First Mike Dukakis and then John Kerry made the same mistake when running for president. They tried to take the high road and ignored their critics. As a result, the impression that was left was that their critics must be right, otherwise, they would have set the record straight. So, let me again set the record straight.

The Alternative High School has just finished its fourth year. That means that the students who were enrolled four years ago as ninth-graders could have graduated this past June. You should know that 80 to 85 percent of all Glen Cove High School students graduate in four years —- 16 percent to 18 percent take five years or even six years —- but they graduate. In the first year of the program, there were 13 students enrolled. Of those 13 students, 11 had already been in the ninth grade one or two years. Students need a minimum of about 22 credits in order to graduate from high school and need to pass five Regents exams. This means that students need to accumulate five to six credits and pass one or two Regents exams in the ninth grade in order to graduate in four years. Of the 11 students who had already completed at least one year of ninth grade, only two had accumulated more than five credits, and only one had passed a Regents exam. These students had a history of failing repeatedly, and frankly the traditional high school was failing them repeatedly. What they needed was an alternative.

Einstein said it best: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.” A second or third year in traditional ninth grade high school classes in a traditional high school setting is not going to work for these students. We need to break the cycle of failure by doing something different.

So, what are the results? Of the 13 students that year, two did not finish the year in the Alternative High School. Unfortunately, they were removed from their homes. Of the 11 who completed the year, three graduated from Glen Cove High School and four received their GED. Four are currently taking a GED program.

Three years ago, 22 students participated in the Alternative High School. Three students either moved or were sent out of the district during that year; 10 have earned 15 or more credits toward their graduation. They are likely to graduate high school in June 2010; one graduated this year, one received a GED, and two others are currently in the GED program; 14 of the 22 had already been in the ninth grade once or twice. Only four of the 22 had passed a Regents exam before the Alternative High School. Of the 17 students who took Regents exams, 13 passed their exams.

This June, of the 25 students in the Alternative High School, 18 took the Living Environment Regents and 16 received passing scores (89 percent); 13 took the Algebra Regents and 12 passed (92 percent); and six took the Global Studies Regents and all six passed.

The program is certainly not a failure. However, you should know that many of our students in the Alternative High School face serious problems outside of the school. As a community, we need to provide alternatives for our young people who need something different. We do provide special education services for those with disabilities. We do provide occupational education for those who wish to develop skills in the trades. We even send a small number of students to a performing arts program.

Let’s remember that a society is judged by the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable members.

Dr. Laurence Aronstein
Superintendent of Schools