October Principal Newsletter

It is hard to believe that one month of the school year has already concluded.  I participated in a data talk a few weeks ago with the superintendent.  Some on my team remarked that we should not use our state test scores to document the successful work at our school.  After, I thought about it for a while I agreed that we’ve never been a “test-driven” school community and that it would be unfair to paint ourselves in such manner.  However, I did want to challenge the mental models that exist in regards to how Black and Latino kids perform on standardized assessments.  There are individuals that continue to make the argument that Black and Latino kids will continue to struggle on standardized assessments unless we provide more support and resources to prepare them for the test—teaching to the test.

I’ve found that providing a well-rounded instructional program, focused professional development, effective parent engagement and responsive techniques that address the social and emotional needs of kids yield positive learning outcomes for all.   Over the last four years many outsiders attribute our success to a changing demographic of “new families” and that is the reason that our state test scores remain strong.  This point fails to take into consideration that the children taught within a progressive framework are now in third grade and that the students who continue to follow a traditional approach to teaching and learning still make up the testing grades (many of these families have lived in the community for generations.) 

Still, while we are elated with being the number one elementary school in Community School District 5 and excited to be closing the achievement gap, we know that test scores are only one measure of student learning.  If we allow ourselves as a school and as a community to be overly focused on test scores to the detriment of other learning, our scholars will not have the variety of opportunities necessary to become all that they could become academically, artistically, athletically, and as contributing members of our society. 

Attend an America Scores soccer game, the RBS has Got Talent, Behind the Book, NYC Ballet Performances, Dance Theater of Harlem, Young Storytellers, Arts Horizons, Harlem School for the Arts, Little Orchestra Society,  Gospel for Pre-Teens, Swim-for-Life classes, Studio in a School Showcase, Doing Art Together Showcase, District 5 Spelling Bee, District 5 STEM Expo, Harlem Grown Farm or a myriad of other activities that clearly demonstrate our scholars’ knowledge and skills, and you will see that these scholars surprise and delight us every day. 

Taken together, these results are much more powerful than a single test score, and they demonstrate that our scholars are receiving a high-quality education of which we can all be very proud because we have all had a part in it.  We have teachers, paraprofessionals, school aides and administrators who are some of the best in New York City and who care deeply about their scholars.  We have wonderful scholars who take responsibility for their learning and want to learn, and we are fortunate with involved parents/caregivers and community members who have high expectations and strongly support their local public school.

Teachers are busy implementing new lessons that coincide with the Common Core Learning Standards in the major academic areas of English Language Arts and math.  Scholars are learning new ways to solve problems and think critically. Teachers have been administering baseline assessments in English Language Arts and math. These formative assessments helps teachers isolate objectives that scholars have mastered and objectives that need to be re-taught. 

With the start of a new school year upon us, there are many changes at the RBS.  We have some returning and new teachers, returning and new paraprofessionals, new assistant principal, a new schedule and many other exciting changes.

  • Karla Francisco, First Grade Teacher

  • Catherine Biempka, Second/Third Grade Teacher

  • Teacher McGeagh, Music Teacher

  • Jevon Jones, ULIT Coach

  • Yvonne Enenmo, Speech Teacher

  • Leslie Ellman, Assistant Principal

I want to personally thank all the families for stopping by our Open School Night. A special acknowledgement for the men that brought their scholars to school for “Dads Take Your Kids to School.” We hope you can find a way to be a part of our school community as either a volunteer, classroom representative, or a spectator at one of the many events throughout the year.  A well-rounded education requires everyone getting involved in student learning.  Whether it be volunteering, ensuring your scholar is well-rested and prepared for school, or consistently reviewing homework on a nightly basis, all efforts will result in heightened student engagement in school.

Educationally Yours,


Reginald Higgins