Sorry for the gap in my blog. To say it was busy these past three weeks would be an understatement. Our one and only daughter graduated this June (I never realized how much work a graduation party is), and I am changing jobs. I’ve taken the SUNY Plattsburgh Branch Campus Dean position, and I officially start on Monday, July 2. My blog will continue to be based around Race to the Top, school reform, teacher and principal practices and evaluation, and student achievement, but I do hope to add an Institute of Higher Education layer. My plan is to continue attending RttT Network Team Institutes (we have a five-day institute coming up in a week), and to push Race to the Top elements into our teacher preparation programs. I hope my entries are as rich as the new opportunities I anticipate in my new role as Dean.
My lovely niece in New York’s mid-Hudson region had her graduation party three weeks ago, and it was a great time. Christine literally beamed the entire afternoon and evening as she soaked in the celebratory event with her friends and family on a picture perfect mid-June day. There was good food, drink and conversations to fill the day, along with some late afternoon volleyball and dips in the pool. During one of the volleyball games with my daughter face to face across the net from me, I was struck by how fast the 13 years from Kindergarten to 12th grade had passed not just for Christine, but for my daughter as well. Both Maggie and Christine are but four months apart in age, and both are graduates of the 2012 class. Thankfully, they are much like sisters with similar interests and common life events. However, I couldn’t help but wonder as the volleyball sailed across the net if they were equally prepared for the next chapter in their lives. In the words of Common Core, were they “College and Career Ready.”
Maggie’s graduation party was last week, and our family members again convened to celebrate yet another high school graduation. Only this time, they traveled to the Adirondack Mountains where we live to do the celebrating. Hillbilly horseshoes replaced volleyball and swimming, but everything else about the parties was the same–smiling graduates, laughter, and a sense of accomplishment. Besides location, there are other differences between the two graduates. Maggie will graduate from a small rural school district of nearly 800 students. Christine graduates from a larger district of 2,200 students. Maggie’s district has been hit hard by budget cuts, Christine’s district has also seen its share of cuts, but has managed to maintain International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement Programs. Warrensburg lacks the resources to offer IB, but has managed to preserve a small handful of Advanced Placement classes. I could go on, but what’s the point. We know all schools are not created equal, and that the wealth of a community oftentimes dictates the quality of its public (and private) schools.
Fortunately for Maggie, little ole Warrensburg is one of the highest performing rural schools in the state, and has been recognized more than once in the past ten years for its academic accomplishments. The district has a committed faculty and staff, and consistency in its administrators has allowed the district to pursue and complete long-term initiatives with laser-like focus. Yes, Maggie will do just fine in college, as will Christine. Still, I do wish the district had a track or cross-country team; and offering a few IB classes wouldn’t hurt either. In any event, this past week graduation rates were published in our local paper, and the Burgers did pretty good with an 85% grad rate. Pretty good is relative of course. What I’d like to see is a graduation rate closer to 100%, but that is a topic for another day. Meanwhile, we’re going to enjoy Maggie’s last summer before college as we all anticipate the exciting and challenging next chapter in our daughter’s life.