By Anna DeGoede
Island Park School District officials recently presented a progress report in meeting the district’s goals to improve student learning and bolster their achievement as outlined in the 2021-24 Strategic Plan.
Vincent Randazzo, superintendent, and Alison Offerman-Celentano, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, made the presentation at the Sept. 19 Board of Education meeting before an audience of school board members, teachers and residents.
Over three years, the Strategic Plan seeks to develop four key “pillars” of student learning: access to and equity in academic achievement; 21st century learning and college and career readiness; stakeholder engagement in the learning community; and social and emotional learning.
Randazzo and Offerman-Celentano presented on five more focused areas of progress for the 2022-23 year: professional learning, STEAM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) development, social-emotional learning, a middle school capstone project and student autonomy.
The district has employed specialists to assist at the elementary and middle school levels, and has contracted with Emily Kang, associate dean for academic affairs at the Adelphi University School of Education, to help meet science curriculum standards at each grade level, according to Randazzo.
“The goal is for students to develop the knowledge and skills to collaboratively engage in explaining and solving our most pressing science issues, particularly local issues such as water quality, plastic pollution and impacts of urbanization on our bays and native wildlife,” Kang said in an interview.
As part of the STEAM curriculum, the district is also adding courtyards, composting bins, pollinator plants and outdoor gardens. Additionally, a fifth-grade team will pilot the SIPS (Stackable, Instructionally-embedded Portable Science) program, a federally funded initiative “focused on developing instructional and assessment materials that embody the best of the research and learning.”
Island Park is adjusting science classrooms in accordance with New York State Science Learning Standards.
With Kang, the first-grade team will develop a spring outdoor unit, while other grade programs will upgrade their science curricula. All eighth-grade students at Lincoln Orens Middle School will sit for the Living Environment Regents Exam, “giving every single student an opportunity to take a high school level course before they leave Island Park,” according to Randazzo.
To help ensure students have the skills to succeed on the exam, they will receive additional learning time, homework help and support from teachers. The instructors assisting with this initiative will undergo additional training.
“We are supporting all of our teachers through robust professional development offerings,” Randazzo said in an interview. “Everything that we do within the district is supported through our professional development. So we have a catalogue of in-service courses that are directly aligned to the strategic objectives within the strategic plan, and then we offer those each year dependent upon which strategic objectives we are focusing on.”
In social and emotional learning, teachers will receive professional development training in the Sanford Harmony program, a free training initiative that incorporates social and emotional learning into all grade levels.
As part of building social and emotional learning initiatives, teachers will focus on creating a culture of understanding with students. “We started off the year with a focus on social-emotional activities, classroom-bonding activities and hands-on, mind-on, subject-specific tasks,” Offerman-Celentano said. “Just as we did last year, we really felt that it was incredibly important to attend to the hearts and minds of our students and build classroom culture before we dove into any rules or academics.”
The 2022-23 school year also marks the launch of the middle school capstone project, according to Offerman-Celentano. Eighth-graders can receive a point toward earning the Seal of Civic Readiness (an honor awarded at graduation from Long Beach High School) by researching a civic project and presenting an action plan before a capstone project committee.
The project is about helping students to develop connections to the material taught through engaging projects and questions and student goal-setting in the classroom. Eventually, this will culminate in student-led parent-teacher conferences this spring.
“If they’re invested, and that goal comes from them… They’re going to be much more invested in carrying out that goal,” Offerman-Celentano said.
Randazzo and Offerman-Celentano concluded their report on the Strategic Plan with information about various extracurriculars and learning opportunities that students will be able to take part in, including trips to New York City and Washington, D.C.
For more on the Island Park School District’s Strategic Plan, click here.