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From The Desk Of Superintendent Of East Williston School District

Wheatley Recognized By U.S. News & World Report

The Wheatley School was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a high performing school in Science and Math.  Since the specifics of individual school rankings can have so much variability from year to year due to a variety of factors, including number of students, rankings are often best viewed within a more general context of membership in a select group of high performing schools, rather than just looking at a specific rank number. The magazine’s latest ranking (2012-13 school year) designates Wheatley as the number 2 school on Long Island in STEM, an acronym which includes courses in Math, Science, Technology and Engineering, and a top performer in these content areas, in the country. (The William A. Shine Great Neck South High School was ranked number 1 on Long Island.)  While we presently do not have Engineering courses (a goal that has been identified by last year’s strategic planning process), our students do take advanced level courses in Math and Science. The report follows a formula where they take the gold ranked high schools in the country (Wheatley is gold-ranked) and then within that group look at the number of advanced placement tests and student performance levels on exams in the area of STEM to develop their rankings.  

Common Core, Simplified

There continues to be some confusion surrounding the Common Core Curriculum, its implementation and the assessments amongst the public. This seems to have been further advanced by the unexpected cancellation of the State Education Commissioner’s Town Hall Meetings originally scheduled throughout the state, one to have been held recently in Garden City.

New York State is one of 46 States that has signed on to the Common Core Initiative.  While the Federal Government did not require any of the states to give a common core assessment last year, two states, New York and Kansas, chose to do so. Whether last year’s New York State common core assessments were truly reflective of the Common Core expectations, whether their cut score point for passing was appropriately set, whether there was validity in giving assessments on material and curriculum that schools had not had time to fully implement and whether there was validity in linking teacher performance scores to those results, are all questions that have arisen. (See the testimony of Dr. Thomas Rogers, District Superintendent of Nassau BOCES in front of the NY Senate Education Committee on our district website at www.ewsdonline.org > scroll down left hand navigation to Common Core Curriculum Information and click on CCC Info > click on Dr. Rogers’ Testimony.)

 It is important, however, to separate the issues of implementation from what actually are the Common Core Standards.   At a regional conference on the Common Core sponsored by Education Week last year, part of the presentation involved a conversation between the Deputy Education Commissioner of New York State and a Superintendent on Common Core Implementation.  I was the Superintendent invited to have that conversation with the Deputy Commissioner. At the regional conference I raised concerns, “from the field,”  that the value inherent in the Common Core Standards could get lost in the pressure of  a rushed implementation without significant opportunities for transition support.  

On our website, under the Common Core Curriculum Information noted above, I have put a link to the “I Can” Statements provided by NYS as implementation support tools.  They are written from a student perspective regarding what a student should be expected to know each year, if they are successfully meeting the expectations of the Common Core. The statements directly reflect the standards, but are in simple language that make them helpful for educators and parents alike when explaining and understanding Common Core.

While expectations for learning are rigorous, you can see by looking at the “I Can” Statements, curriculum content is not prescribed, and leaves room for flexibility and creativity, but at the same time, identifies key student performance standards as a helpful guide for schools creating common core aligned curriculum units and lessons.

As an example, below is a portion of the Grade Six ELA “I Can” Statements for reading informational text and literature:

   Reading: Informational text:

• I can use evidence from the text to support my analysis of what the text says and inferences I make

• I can determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details

• I can summarize informational text while leaving out my personal opinion

• I can analyze how an individual,  event, or idea is introduced and elaborated upon in informational text

• I can determine the figurative, connotative,  or technical meaning of words or phrases in a grade 6 text

• I can analyze how a sentence/chapter fits into the structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas

• I can determine the author’s point of view and explain how it is conveyed through the text

• I can utilize media or graphics to develop a coherent understanding of a topic

• I can trace and evaluate the argument and claims in a text

• I can identify claims that are supported with reasons and those that are not

• I can compare and contrast two authors’ presentation of the same event or topic

• I can read and comprehend informational text appropriate for sixth grade

   Reading: Literature  

• I can use evidence from the text to support my analysis of what the text says and inferences I make

• I can determine the theme and explain how it is portrayed through details

• I can summarize a text and leave out my personal opinion

• I can describe how a story’s plot unfolds using a series of episodes

• I can explain how the characters respond or change as the plot advances

• I can determine the figurative and literal meaning of words and phrases based on how they are used in a text.

• I can analyze the impact of specific word choice on the meaning and tone of the passage

• I can explain how a particular chapter/scene fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot

• I can explain how an author develops the point of view of a narrator or text’s characters

• I can compare and contrast the experience of reading a text to viewing or listening to the same text

• I can compare and contrast texts of different forms on their treatment of the same topic

• I can read and comprehend literature at the sixth grade level

For “I Can” Statements for Grades K-12 please go to our website at www.ewsdonline.org  > scroll down left hand navigation to Common Core Curriculum Information and click on CCC Info > click on “I Can” Statements for Grades K.