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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Scoreboard

This morning began with an assembly involving the secondary level learners in grades 7 - 12. The purpose of the meeting was to make sure that everyone understood our baseline data as a starting point for our improvement efforts. Before we could launch a strategic path toward improvement we all had to realize why it was necessary to improve.

The gymnasium was a perfect setting for the assembly. The scoreboard was turned on and featured the 62 -45 outcome of the 2009 Central Hudson Valley Boys Varsity Basketball championship game. Heatly claimed the victory and a banner hangs on the gymnasium wall testifying to the accomplishment. Basketball is an extremely popular sport at Heatly and the school has a history of excellence despite being one of the smallest schools in the league. There are many reasons to be proud of this success.

Unfortunately, Heatly has struggled lately to experience success in academics compared to other schools and the New York State learning standards. The Green Island Union Free School District is one of 54 school districts (out of the state's 720 school districts) that has been identified as a SINI school (School In Need of Improvement) based on underperforming results on state mandated tests. While nearly 50% of of the males and females at the secondary level participate in athletics, 100% are participating in academics. Although I am an avid sports fan and former competitive college athlete, our school district mission is framed around preparing all graduates for college, career, and citizenship, and the sports program represents an important, but small part of that preparation. We must be provide an academic program that will make our graduates more competitive in the future job market. It's not enough to defeat our opponents on the field or on the court and then find our graduates either unemployed or working for those same opponents years later. We must seek to experience the same sense of victory in the classroom to enjoy prosperity in the future.

Therefore, we removed the score of the championship game from the scoreboard and replaced it with scores that indicate our academic performance as it compares to our Central Hudson Valley opponents. We were below the league average on our state tests in English and Language Arts in grades 3 - 8; we were below the league average on our state tests in Math in grades 3 - 8; the same differences were found when looking at High School English and Math test scores as well. In fact, it turns out that the only statistic we were above average in was the percentage of learners who were suspended from school.

This was the stark reality confronting the assembled audience. Even though the scores are publicly available on the state education department's website and annually listed in area newspapers, the collective comparison was new to those seated on the bleachers. It was quiet and perhaps a bit uncomfortable. After allowing the weight of the information to set in, I offered examples of overcoming personal obstacles using the same characteristics that enabled athletes to gain victories. We need to change the attitude in the classrooms and through the hallways from "I'll believe it when I see it" to "I'll see it when I believe it." The first step involves believing that success is possible.

We need to be a large academic team with a game plan. We have to be focused on a commonly shared goal, willing to sacrifice the time and energy required to increase performance levels, dedicated to improvement, supportive of one another, receptive to feedback, and ready to practice. As coach of this team, I felt we needed to start by acknowledging where we are right now so we can see and understand the challenge awaiting us. This is a game we can't afford to lose.

Forty minutes after the scoreboard lit up we were ready to begin the long season ahead. This will be a message that will echo at regular intervals throughout the school year. We will monitor our performance, update our strategy, commit to success, and reinforce progress.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You!

    I love all of this!

    Community member
    Staff member
    someone worried about our students