October Principal Newsletter

OCTOBER PRINCIPAL’S NEWSLETTER

It is hard to believe that one month of the school year has already concluded.  I participated in a LPP meeting and we were expected to share data that we feel highlights successful work taking place at our school.  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 three 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 second 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.)  We are very proud that in ELA 56% and in math 56% of third through fifth graders at the Ralph Bunche School scored at a “proficient” level on the statewide assessments—the highest proficiency levels in Community School District 5. Juan Tinch, 4th grade scholar achieved a PERFECT score on his mathematics assessment. This year’s ELA score is a 17% increase and the math is a 3% increase over last year’s.  I have often said that if we allow teachers to teach in meaningful, relevant and engaging ways, that scholars chances of demonstrating proficiency are enhanced versus having them sit through test-prep all day.  These scores tend to verify that.

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, Young Audiences of NY Performances, 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.  I was especially impressed with the efforts our scholars made to contribute to the Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria Drive. Kids and families working together to support those in need.  As a school community we also recognize that our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Virgin Islands also need our assistance and the kids will be hosting a drive to support USVI too.

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.

  • Francesca Florio, Kindergarten Teacher
  • Jamilah Nieves, Second/Third Grade Teacher
  • Mandy Mazel, Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Adam Kidder, Art Specialist Teacher
  • Crystal Edwards, Occupational Therapist

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.

The fall is a very busy time here at the Ralph Bunche School:

SLT Meeting                                                                           October 3rd     4:00pm

Family Day Potluck Picnic (Morningside Park—120th ST)    October 14th    12:00pm

PA Meeting                                                                             October 17th    6:00pm

Hispanic Heritage Celebration                                                October 16th    4:30pm

Title I Parent Meeting                                                             October 23rd    5:00pm

United Nations Day Assembly                                               October 24th    9:00am

Progressive Ed PD                                                                  October 25th    9:00am

Progressive Ed PD                                                                  October 26th    5:30pm

Book-a-Ween Parade                                                              October 31st    1:30pm

(THERE IS NO SCHOOL on October 9th.)

There will be a myriad of opportunities for you to be involved with the RBS staff, families and scholars this month.  Aliya Thomas and Tomoi Zeimer are Co-Presidents of the Parent Association.  Make this year memorable by becoming active in your school’s Parent Association.

 School attendance is not just required by law, it is critical to scholars’ success in school and life.  Please read Chancellor’s Regulation A-210 very carefully.  It details the attendance policy of New York City public schools.  It is important for every scholar to attend school every day.  Absences should occur only for the reasons outlined in this policy.  If your scholar is absent from school, you must send a written excuse to the school.  Unexcused absences will be referred to the guidance counselor, social worker, and attendance coordinator.  Please note that absences for family trips are unexcused unless approved in advance by the principal.

  • Research shows that children who are chronically absent -- that is, they miss 20 or more days of school in a given schoolyear -- are less likely to graduate from high school .  This includes students who miss just two days a month, which adds up to 20 days a year.
  • In addition, analysis of national testing data shows that scholars who miss more school than their peers consistently score lower on standardized tests , no matter their age, demographic group, or state or city.

With the change in our school schedule it is important that scholars are picked up immediately at dismissal.  Our school day officially ends at 2:20pm and there is no adult supervision after that time.  Please call (212) 666-6400 if you are going to be late picking your scholar up from dismissal.  This courtesy will greatly reduce the number of calls we must make to inform you that your scholar has not been picked up

I encourage you all to embrace our instructional focus of developing academic vocabulary skills.  We are off to an auspicious school year!

Educationally yours,

Reggie Higgins, Principal