Over the last two years, the Hudson City School District’s capital project has brought many physical enhancements to our school buildings and grounds. From the Bluehawk Sports Complex to new learning spaces that support STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), the physical environments at HCSD have evolved to match the Bluehawk Pride we feel inside.
Even more notable are the recent improvements in our students’ academic achievements. Not only was the new Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School building a good physical space to open the school year, but our district also started the new year from a good academic standpoint compared to previous years.
I am excited to share that all grades from Kindergarten through Grade 8 saw improvement in exam results last year. Grades 4 through 8 earned higher scores on New York State (NYS) assessments in all subjects. For the state Science exam, Grade 4 scores increased by 9 percent. Grades 3-5 increased their NYS exam scores by 8 percent in English/Language Arts (ELA) and 10 percent in Mathematics. Students in Grades 6-8 also received higher exam results, increasing scores by 6 percent in ELA and 2.5 percent in Math.
And, our English Language Learners also demonstrated increased proficiency in 2017-18, jumping 10 percentage points on their New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT). These improvements may seem small but they show us that we are facing in the right direction.
Regardless of one’s attitude toward state assessments, we should all be proud of this academic growth. As we’ve stressed before, the primary reason students take state exams is to help educators identify the gaps between student knowledge and the curriculum being taught. The exam results help educators understand each student’s knowledge of the subject matter, and they are essential in evaluating whether or not the educational goals and standards are being met. We use this information to form the basis of maintaining or designing programs and practices that support our students, so we can meet them where they are academically and move them forward.
Analyzing our students’ academic progress using consistent measures each year keeps us accountable to the work that needs to be done to improve our educational practices. It helps us to make important decisions and to assess whether the curriculum being taught is being learned, or if adjustments are needed to better support learning outcomes.
The improvements made through the completion of the Capital Project are clearly visible from the outside, but these academic gains show that we are also improving on the inside. However, we are not just about aesthetics and exam scores. The development of our students’ social and emotional well-being is an important part of our district goals. Initiatives and programs such as Power of Peace and PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports) help teach our students self-awareness, compassion, respect, being a good example for others and more. We are also incorporating Restorative Practices in response to Code of Conduct violations. By using a restorative approach to discipline, the focus shifts from the negative to building and repairing relationships, as well as empowering students to learn and grow from mistakes.
Alongside a state-of-the-art elementary addition and a beautiful track and field, we have a renewed sense of believing in ourselves as educators and, more importantly, believing in the ability of our students to learn and reach their full potentials toward college, career and citizenship. Thank you for believing in us and for your community support over the years. Together we can move mountains and our children deserve nothing less of us.
Wishing you all a joyous Thanksgiving. Look for the next HCSD update when “District Insights“ returns in January. Warmest wishes as we enter the holiday season.
Maria Suttmeier is superintendent of the Hudson City School District.