School Data Reports

Each year, our students take state tests in ELA (reading and writing) and math.  There is a lot of news about these tests and about the level of difficulty of the questions. If you are interested in learning more about last year’s tests, this link provides you with sample questions from the tests along with an explanation of the answers. The tests change yearly, so these will not necessarily be representative of next year’s test questions. 

Overall, our students performed well on last year’s tests.  Our school has been recognized as a “Reward School” for the 2015-2016 school year. We are one of 361 schools in New York State (including 24 charter schools) that had the highest achievement in the state without significant gaps in student achievement between subgroups.  While we take test results with a grain of skepticism, we are gratified to see that our students were well prepared for the tests.  

This week, the NYC Department of Education released two new documents.  The School Quality Snapshot and School Quality Guide summarize state test, school survey, and Quality Review data. We have been looking at test data in multiple formats to understand it.  We have compared our test results year to year (how do third graders do over years as well as tracking how cohorts of students score on these tests from grade to grade.)  

We also look at other schools in the city to see how we are doing. We face a couple challenges in doing this.  Often, we need to try to disaggregate data for our K-8 school to see how we are doing compared to K-5 and 6-8 schools. We also have to remember that our middle school is limited unscreened which means that we do not look at test scores or grades in admitting students to our program. Often, when we compare ourselves to other schools, they are screened — only taking students who score high 3s and 4s on state tests. 

This data shows that we need to work on helping students improved on the State Math tests (some of this data might be skewed by the students who are taking the Algebra 1 Regents test).  We are making considerable efforts towards helping students attain higher achievement in mathematics.  We are fortunate to have Ariel Dlugasch as a full time math coach this year. She is coaching teachers on improving their mathematics instruction.  She is also setting us up with a variety of mathematics PD.  Teachers are studying mathematics pedagogy at City College through the MiTC program and participating in study groups with Metamorphosis, a math education think tank. 

The data shows that we do well in helping students improve performance on their State ELA tests. But we also want to make sure we are improving our scores there as well.  Teachers are focused this year on enhancing the clarity of their instruction so that students are better able to independently apply the skills they are learning to different situations.   We are supporting teachers in this effort by sending them to professional learning opportunities off site and by having them work with consultants on site.  

We also continue to support teachers and students through our work with the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project.  Staff developers from this organization help us to think through the use of learning progressions, articulating how skills build on each other. Teachers are using this work to understand student strengths and to plan for teaching high leverage skills — those skills that allow learners to learn efficiently. Examples of high leverage skills include understanding how the different models students are learning in math allow them to deeply understand and apply commutative and associative properties — key understandings and skills in solving algebraic problems.  Another example is to learn how main idea and theme are linked.  If I can retell the story and identify the main idea, then I can more easily identify the theme and support my reasoning with evidence from the text.  

Recently, Deputy Chancellor Phil Weinberg visited our school.  He noticed the impact of all the professional learning in which our staff engaged. In a follow up, he wrote me that he noticed that we are “cultivating a nurturing learning community, one that has an understanding of the responsibility educators must embrace to work hard in service of student learning.

The consistency and rigor of the instruction in the classrooms we visited was impressive. At every turn, students were deeply engaged in learning. I was particularly struck by the way students were learning with and from each other. Teachers were noticeably pushing young people to think for themselves as well as to think out loud with each other; to me, this is a clear result of the supportive learning community you and your dedicated staff are building. I was also impressed by your own knowledge of the promising instructional practices as well as the challenges facing every single educator in your building.”

Terrorist Attacks in Paris

The news from Paris on Friday afternoon was shocking and saddening.  We have many families at our school who are French or who have close ties to people living in France.  Our thoughts are with these families and with the French people.  


At the same time, we have families and staff in our school who are Muslim.  The Muslim community around the world is suffering tremendously.  The refugee crises in Europe and Southeast Asia are visible stories of the trauma that Muslim families face daily.  Our thoughts are with them as well. 


I can’t pretend to understand all the reasons why young people become radicalized.  Their paths towards violence are complicated and diverse and lead to tragic results.  My job as an educator is to help our children understand events and to help guide them to choices that make the world a better place.  My job as a school leader is to make sure that our school is a safe place for all children. 


This means that we want to make sure that children are talking about events in a safe and respectful way and that they are viewing media coverage with a critical eye.  It also means that we are guiding children away from the conclusion that all Muslims are terrorists.  We want to make sure that our students are supportive and compassionate towards all their classmates.   


How we handle this conversation with children is critical in helping them understand world events and how our own community responds to these events.    


On Monday, many children will be talking about this event.  They will have seen it on the news, heard parents talk about it, or have heard about it from other children on the playground.  Teachers will be leading appropriate conversations about the events during the next week.  Early grade teachers (K-2) will be listening in to children’s conversations before collaboratively planning how they will facilitate conversations at school.  


Rebecca Haverstick, one of our third grade teachers, sent me an email late last night reflecting on how she will facilitate a conversation with the children in her class about the events in Paris.  She started me on a list of resources (below) that can help parents talk with their children about the terror attacks in Paris. We will be adding to this resource list as we vet additional resources.  


Hand in Hand Parenting starts their post on the topic with the following story about Mr. Rogers. 

“As with many tragedies that are covered extensively in the media, children who hear about them may be confused or scared. Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood once shared a thoughtful approach for comforting children and instilling a sense of hope in them in the face of such incomprehensible events:


‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.’ — Fred Rogers” 


Resources, listed below, all share similar guidelines for talking about violence and traumatic events with children.  This list will guide conversations in classrooms. The guidelines include:


• Find out what kids already know. 

• Correct inaccurate information. 

• Encourage kids to ask questions. 

• Assure them that grown-ups are working to keep everyone safe. 


Older students will be discussing the complex nature of the good v evil, how injustice can lead to violence, and what actions we can take as individuals and a community to make a difference in the world. 


If you have any concerns about how this will be handled or if your child has been personally impacted, please contact your child’s teacher. You can also reach out to Rachel Goodman or Alisha Bennett, our guidance counselors. 


Resources: 

PBS guidelines to help parents talk with children about news events.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network  resources for helping children cope with terrorism
Hand in hand parenting a website with ideas around parenting
News-o-Matic an online news source for children. They share information on how to talk to children about scary and troubling news events.
Child Mind Institute provided information to Time Magazine for a piece on helping children cope with news of the Paris attacks. Read on time.com:  How to Talk to Your Kids About the Attacks in Paris.  The Child Mind Institute also has resources on their website coaching parents on how to discuss the news with children including tips on talking to children about frightening events and a guide for parents and teachers to help children cope with traumatic events. 

Talking About Race

Our on-site PD on Election Day created a good deal of emotion and conversation.  We had three facilitators from Border Crossers come and lead us in thinking about how people of color experience life in America. Those of us who are white are largely unaware of the daily challenges faced by our colleagues, students, family members and parents who are Black, Asian, Arab and Hispanic.  Thinking about this is deeply uncomfortable for us as privileged White members of society. If we really want to create an inclusive and just school community, and by extension, contribute to the justness of our wider society, then we need to sit with that discomfort.  Peggy McIntosh wrote about White Privilege a long time ago (1990!). Her essay is still important reading.

 

I am confident that teachers on our staff do not ever intend to be hurtful towards students in terms of race (or for any reason, but right now I am referring to race).  I know I don’t. But I also know that my skin color alone has allowed me to grow up so that I am largely oblivious to how my actions are perceived.  I was cleaning out my bookshelves and this weekend rediscovered a book by a White mother who raised her Black daughter in the south.  In this book, the author, Sharon Rush, a civil rights lawyer dedicated to jusice, shares about how she came to realize how little she knew about the experiences of Black members of our society. Becoming aware of the constant micro-aggressions by people and institutions shaped her daughter’s experiences, and the author’s own understanding of racism, in powerful ways.  

As White members of society, we get to pretend that we are color-blind. We can pretend that a child’s skin color doesn’t impact how we view them or react to them. We need to fight against this color-blindness to become color-conscious.  As we do this, we need to figure out, awkwardly at times, how to affirm racial differences in ways that help children develop positive attitudes around difference.  Rush writes in her book, “Goodwill Whites are on constant alert as we try to overcome our own racism but realize we are vulnerable to accusations, often justifiable, that we sometimes get it wrong.” (Italics are my own.) She counsels us to worry less about how to avoid the label and worry more about systemic racism and how to end it. Even though it is uncomfortable, I need to be called on when I am on not as eloquent as I would like or intend. I recognize I am learning how to talk about race and working through this discomfort is the only way I will learn. I hope that by modeling my own willingness to engage in these conversations and my openness to feedback, I will contribute to making our school a safe space to talk about race and racism and thus to help all our students feel safe and valued in our school.

 

Independence and Responsibility

Schools are places where students learn a lot of different things.  Recently, I have been noticing how much of the work we do is about building independence and the responsibility that goes along with it.  In kindergarten, children learn to select and stick with an activity during choice time.  In lower grades, teachers make sure that classrooms are set up in a way that builds independence – materials are labeled and accessible, schedules of the day are posted and reviewed, and children are encouraged to try to solve social problems on their own before reaching out to an adult for help. By middle school, students are increasingly responsible for keeping track of their calendars of due dates and tests. They are also coached on communicating with their teachers about areas of difficulty. (Teachers will reach out to students if there is a need, but we are coaching students to advocate for themselves.)

Our students are building independence and responsibility for themselves in a lot of different ways.  At the same time, we want them to take on responsibility for the community. One way we do this is to have KP duty at lunch.  Each lunch period, homerooms or classes are responsible for making sure that garbage is put away, tables wiped down and floor swept.  Our students do this fairly well.  There are skills we need to teach such as how to wring out a wet cloth and wipe down tables (note: holding a dripping cloth between thumb and fore finger and waving it vaguely in the direction of a table isn’t so effective!)  In addition to this really basic skill, we are also teaching the students to be more aware of how they leave a communal space — wrappers and milk cartons need to be tossed, a school of goldfish crackers shouldn’t be left swimming on the floor under the table, splashed milk should be wiped up.  Students are mostly pretty good about this, though, at times we need to do some familial nagging to get the job done.

Recently, I have been having conversations with some teachers and parents that reference the importance of building independence.  As grown ups, we can be conflicted about how to strike a balance between encouraging independence and responsibility and taking care of our children.  Some of this conflict arises out of the constant press for time. Parents will carry backpacks in order to get out of the house on time for school.  Teachers and lunch staff will wipe down tables because another group of kids is coming into the lunchroom and we need to get moving.  We also often worry about their sense of self.  By helping them to solve social problems or do homework on their own, the more confident they will become.

Helping our children become independent and responsible is one of the most important ways we can help them become successful adults.

Communicating about Learning

This year, we are modifying how we communicate about student progress.  This is partly in response to parents who have voiced concerns that receiving first report cards in January is late.  It is also because of the new format for report cards.  Last year was the first year that we used official DOE report cards for all students.  While we aren’t crazy about the report card format and phrasing of the benchmarks, we are required to use it as it is a new mandate from New York State.

We will be sending home three report cards this year. (Middle school students will not get progress reports in October. Instead, we are sending home an initial report card.  When calculating final grades in June, teachers will take student growth into consideration.)

The first report card will go out just before parent teacher conferences in November. (Our teachers have voted to have the first conference day on November 10 from 12:30 to 7:30.  This is different information than that posted on other DOE calendars.)  This report card will provide baseline data and will provide a foundation for conversations about student learning during conferences.  We can also use this first report card to set goals for students so that we can work together to to better support student learning.

The second report card will go out in March just before our spring parent teacher conferences.  The final report card will go home at the end of the school year.

We believe that by sending home three reports of progress, parents and students will have a clearer sense of student learning in relation to the Common Core standards.  As always, if you have any questions about your child’s learning, you should reach out to the teachers.

Strong communication is bi-directional.  We want to communicate with you and we value your thoughts and feedback.  It is my hope that increasing the number of report cards to parents is responsive to your concerns. By working together, we make our school stronger and provide a better learning experience for our children.

Discipline Policy

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 

This summer, our faculty read How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough.  In crafting his argument about the importance of personal traits in success, Tough distinguished between two types of executive function: cognitive flexibility and cognitive self-control.  He writes, “Cognitive flexibility is the ability to see alternate solutions to problems, to think outside the box, to negotiate unfamiliar situations. Cognitive self-control is the ability to inhibit an instinctive or habitual response and substitute a more effective, less obvious one.”  He also suggests that success may be less determined by the amount of information and academic skills we teach our students than the persistence and self-control that we can help them develop.  (Excerpts from the book are available in several different publications. Here is an article in the NY Times about the development of these qualities in schools.)


Research confirms to use that a strong approach to discipline includes carefully designed classroom environments, a curriculum that is accessible and engaging to the full range of students in the school, time to have physical activity, and clear expectations around behavior.  It is a given that our students have lapses in judgement. It is our job to help them learn to navigate a variety of social situations from starting school to the complexities of adolescence, learn to manage their emotions around frustration, disappointment, and anxiety, and learn to make better choices and take responsibility for their actions. 


We believe that it is our job as a school to help our students develop both the cognitive flexibility and cognitive self-control that Tough writes about. While it is relatively easy to read about the importance of perseverance and grit, it is not always so easy is to put these ideas into practice. Each child presents us with unique opportunities for learning and unique challenges.  At Battery Park City School, our staff is very thoughtful in how we respond to individual students.  We seek out advice from other educators and read a lot.  And we have to think about how we apply this information to the unique circumstances of the children we are working with. We appreciate the opportunity to work with families and our colleagues to help our children grow into strong, resilient, and confident adults.

 

More information on our approach to discipline will be shared at a our Town Hall Safety meeting on October 9 from 8 to 8:30 (right before the PTA meeting).  If you have specific questions, you can pose them to me here so that I can be sure to answer your questions. 

  

Building Safety

Emergency Drills

At the beginning of every year, we conduct regular emergency preparedness drills.  As adults, most of us remember fire drills as children:  lining up quietly, no talking, a slight sense of boredom tempered with apprehension.  Our older students are fairly skilled at fire drills. Our youngest students are always more surprised by the loud alarms and flashing lights. We are required by state law to conduct 8 fire drills before December 1.  Our first fire drill will be Monday afternoon. We let everyone know about this first drill because we need to rehearse behaviors and fire drill exits.  The other fire drills will not be announced.

Back in the day, when I was growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the mid 1960’s, we had “tornado drills” in addition to fire drills. Tornado drills meant we had to duck and cover in the hallways.  Maybe these drills really were for tornadoes. We had those in Chicago.  However, as an adult, I realized that maybe these drills weren’t just for tornadoes.

Nowadays, we don’t have duck and cover drills any more.  Instead, and this is scarier, we have lock down drills to rehearse what might happen in case of intruders.  We rehearse these lock down drills with students.  Teachers check hallways for students, lock their doors, and everyone clusters together in the classroom, silently, out of sight of the doorway. Our Building Response Team (BRT) checks hallways, stairwells and bathrooms for students and possible “intruders.”  Teachers explain the drills to students in developmentally appropriate ways and, when we have the drill, everyone knows it is a drill.  We will have two lock down drills by Thanksgiving. One is a simple lockdown drill. The other, a missing child drill, is experienced similarly by students but the BRT has a slightly different job.

All our drills are conducted according to emergency management and DOE procedures. They will be explained in more depth at our Town Hall Safety meeting on October 9 at 8 am (just before the PTA meeting.)

Visitors and Volunteers

All those drills are great practice in case something unexpected might happen.  As you can imagine, we have systems in place to try to prevent these events.

We have two fabulous School Safety Agents in our school, Antoinette Dyall and Elsie Rolon.  They survey the building, monitor cameras, and ensure that visitors to the building sign in according to protocols.  All visitors to the building are required to show photo id.

Most visitors to 276 are parents who are volunteering at lunch, in the library, or in classrooms. This year, volunteers to our building will be given green lanyards with their destination/purpose indicated on the badge and reminders of volunteer guidelines.  These lanyards will be more visible to people in our community than the little stickers we have been using in the past.

If staff see someone in the building without a green lanyard or who is not in the expected place (cafeteria, yard, library, etc.), we will ask if any help is needed. This is intended as a polite hint that you should not be wandering.  If necessary, people without a clear and appropriate purpose in the building will be escorted to the building exit.

Door Alarms

Additionally, we are very serious about not using the Second Place doorway as an entrance or exit to the building.  Everyone is expected to enter and exit through the main entrance. The Second Place Entrance is alarmed. When the alarm goes off, it launches a specific emergency protocol taking teachers and administration away from the important work of teaching the children.

EVEN IF, the door is open for arrival or dismissal, you should NOT use this door.  Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Don’t forget to come to the Town Hall Safety Meeting at 8 am on October 9.

Staffing

Each year we say good-bye to some colleagues and welcome new members of our community. Working from early childhood grades up and ending with office staff, below is an overview of our staffing changes:

This year, we are pleased to welcome back two early childhood teachers. Lucas Rotman was on sabbatical last year studying the role of music in how children acquire literacy. He will be teaching kindergarten. Jackie Wong returns to first grade after spending the last couple years as a Reading Recovery teacher leader.

We also bid farewell to several teachers.  Katie Mullaney has decided to return to Brooklyn. She is joining the staff at the Children’s School where both her children are enrolled.  Sonia Bicocchi has taken a job much closer to her home.  Ryan Elias and MaryJo Stallone both are returning to their pre-kindergarten roots.  Jennie Cohen decided to take a job as an ESL teacher at a District 2 middle school.  Audra Benjamin is transitioning to a career in school counseling at the high school level.

It is a big task to fill the shoes of these professionals.  We are fortunate to welcome new staff members to join our team.

Shirley Shum will be co-teaching in a third grade class. Jessica Kuhl will be teaching science to grades 4-6.  Jessica has been working in our middle school and collaborating in science teaching with Youngjee and Shirley,

Our fifth grade is expanding to four classes this year.  Mollie Gross and Rachel Hacker will be working with fifth graders.  Both of them have taught upper elementary grades.

Pooja Shekar, who worked in first grade last year, will be our Spanish teacher for upper grades. Pooja has excellent Spanish skills and has a degree in teaching Spanish from NYU.

Natalie Delmonte will be working with middle school students in ELA and Social Studies.  She comes to us with a degree in special education and history education.

Stevie Latham has worked in our middle school for the past three years. This summer, Stevie has taken the courageous step of transitioning to her preferred gender identity. I am honored that she feels safe in taking this step as a member of our school community.  It is a testament to the welcoming and respectful tone in our school community — a community that values diversity.

As many of you know, MaryLou Imbornone has retired. Erica Weldon will be taking her place. We welcome Susan Townes as our new parent coordinator.  Susan was an active PTA member at NEST+M while her daughter was a student there. She brings a strong skill set to our community.

Back to School Welcome

September 2015

The staff at 276 has been busy getting ready for the new school year.  Teachers have started coming in to set up classrooms and work on planning.  Anthony and his custodial crew have been polishing and cleaning.  Nico, Claudine, Erica, Lorraine and I have been hard at work through the summer with registration, classes, and first days of school procedures.

The first day of school this year is Wednesday, September 9th. School starts at 8:20 each day. The school building will open for breakfast in the 5th floor cafeteria at 8:00 am. School lunch will be served starting the first day of school.

Class assignments will be announced for K through 5th grade on September 8, 2015. Middle school students will find out their class assignment on the first day of school.

First through Fifth graders will go to the gym to line up with their class. Please make sure your child knows their class number before coming to school. School staff will be in the gym to help them to their class line. Teachers will pick students up from the gym and take them to their classrooms. Parents will say good-bye in the lobby.

Kindergarten families are invited to escort their children upstairs to their classroom. We ask you to take the stairs to the third floor to improve traffic flow in the lobby. At the beginning of October, parents will drop students off in the lobby. More information will be forthcoming on this transition.

Middle School students will go directly to the auditorium for their class assignments on September 9. On Thursday, September 10, they will go straight to homeroom.

Please remember that NO SCOOTERS, SKATEBOARDS OR STROLLERS ARE ALLOWED IN THE BUILDING at any time.

Dismissal

At 2:40 pm teachers will bring students downstairs for dismissal.  There will be signs in the first floor windows indicating where your child’s class will be dismissed. Parents/caretakers should wait outside on the sidewalk to greet classes by the sign for your child’s class. Please stand in back of the trees so that children can have access to line up. Fifth grade students are dismissed on the corner of First Place and Battery Place.

Kindergarten students will have a half day on September 9th.  They will be dismissed at 11:30. All other school days kindergarten is dismissed at 2:30 pm.

Middle School students are dismissed on their own at 2:40 pm. Please make arrangements with your child if you plan to meet them after school.

After school begins on Thursday, September 10th.  You can register through the Manhattan Youth website. 
Please visit our website for up to date information and calendar of events.

Reading Passions

November 2014

As a kid, I read a lot: historical fiction passed down from my older sister, Hardy Boys mysteries from my brother, and titles I found on my own during weekly trips to the library. Those fiction stories have stayed with me. But what probably had the most obvious influence on my life were the National Geographic magazines that arrived each month in the mail. I remember curling up with them on the sofa, pondering the pictures and captions and occasionally dipping into the articles themselves. These magazines opened the world to me. In my twenties, when I was traveling around the world, those magazine images came to life as I rode on top of a bus in India, watched Balinese women gracefully carry towering offerings to temples on their heads, and Cameroonian women walking along the road with their babies tied to their backs in multicolored pagnes.

I continue to read non-fiction – online and on paper – because by the world and the different perspectives I gain from informational texts fascinate me. One blog that has really captured my attention is Out of Eden. Journalist Paul Salopek is walking the route of our ancestors from Ethiopia to the tip of Chile. He expects it will take about 7 years. As I read his dispatches, I draw upon the knowledge of geography, history, myth, and culture that I have gained from reading widely. Take a look at the blog and read an entry or two. As you read, think about what specific skills and knowledge you are using to understand what Salopek is writing about. What disciplines do you recognize? Economics? Politics? Science? History? How does he engage you as a reader?

At 276, we recognize that strong readers and critical thinkers need to have a well- rounded education and deep knowledge that they can draw upon when they encounter new experiences. At their best, the Common Core Learning Standards can help us achieve this objective. The Common Core in English Language Arts asks schools to engage in several instructional shifts: We are tasked with providing our students with a greater balance between fiction and non-fiction reading and writing. This allows our students to understand the unique features and structures of informational texts, to build knowledge about the world, and to increase their academic vocabulary. We also are required to teach our students how to engage with increasingly complex texts and to reflect on the ideas in these texts through writing. Students are expected to use evidence from the texts to provide evidence for their thinking and to apply this evidence in the construction of arguments.

These shifts are important for our students’ achievement. Research shows that a strong foundation of content knowledge can account for as much as 33% of variance in student achievement on standardized tests. More importantly, the discipline specific vocabulary students acquire through in-depth studies is needed for success in middle school, high school and beyond. And engaging content provides increased incentive for reading. We want our students reading – a lot – every day. Students who read on average 21 minutes a day encounter 1.8 million words a year while those who read on average 1 minute a day (the bottom 10th percentile of readers) are exposed to only 8000 words in print a year.

I am proud of the units of study that we create for and with our students that help them build a solid foundation of knowledge and the skills needed to engage with it. Our students are expected to integrate knowledge across texts from kindergarten on. They analyze ideas, ask probing questions, and construct their own understandings through reading a variety of texts. Whether they are constructing arguments about important social issues in grade 4, integrating ideas about history through crafting historical fiction in grade 7, or learning about the adaptations of dinosaurs in kindergarten, our students are building the content knowledge and the literacy skills needed to be engaged life long learners.