EPS visits Jefferson Elementary School in New York

This blog entry is the eighth in a series from the team visiting schools in the States and comes to you from the ‘Big Apple.’
Today we visited Jefferson Elementary School (K-5), located in upstate New York in a town called New Rochelle.
IMG_6119We were greeted by the New Rochelle School District Security officer who ensured we followed correct protocol.
We met with the school’s math facilitator & a Year 5 teacher. Together they outlined the district-wide Data Wise strategy & how they had enacted this within their own context.
Our key takeaways included:
– Jefferson is one of the lowest performing schools within the district. This was due in part to the demography; 75% were Hispanic & were entitled to the ‘Free Lunch’ program.
– Of these students, 50% were English Language Learners, with a considerable number titled ’emergent bi-lingual learners'( which saw these students learning English & their ‘Mother language’ simultaneously.
– students started formal schooling with little or no kindergarten experiences.
– We noted that New York State-wide testing program simply involved a 6 day test (3 for math & 3 for English Language Arts) once each year, which was markedly different to the testing schedule for elementary schools within the Boston School District.
– We noted a sense of frustration that following the 6 days of assessment, explicit instruction continued to be disrupted due to teachers being released to mark these assessments; this totalled to a loss of 12 days of instructions.
– The Assistant Principal spoke candidly of the ramifications from the district office if a school under performed in the state test. Such intervention would include a visit from the Superintendent who would require a rigorous action plan with goals for improvement to be evident within an academic year.
– Jefferson teachers noted that in the past, state-wide tests were used to assess the effectiveness of curriculum programs. This has changed in recent years to a focus on evaluating teacher performance.
IMG_6114Finally, our most significant challenge today was navigating New York’s Subway system. New Rochelle is a distance from the city, so negotiating regional trains was an interesting lesson in reading timetables, locating ticket machines & determine direction. This made us see the importance of teaching our students these integral life skills.
IMG_7579Did you know? That Grand Central Terminal has 44 platforms, 67 tracks & 750,000 visitors pass through this iconic station each day.