South Orangetown Central School District

Tri-States team member listens to CLE discussion

This week, a team of regional educators and administrators conducted an in-depth, three-day review of SOCSD programs which encompassed 30+ classroom visits, focus groups with students, teachers, school leaders and parents and examination of 100+ pieces of digital evidence–notes, audio recordings, video footage–collected over the past nine months. The goal is to provide actionable feedback on how the District facilitates opportunities for student discussion, debate and presentations across all grade levels and how students demonstrate growth in their communication skills over time.

“The purpose of this endeavor is to refocus our efforts on fostering opportunities for students to collaborate and communicate through conversations, debates and public speaking in authentic and meaningful ways,” explained Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Brian Culot, Ed.D. “Over the past 10 years, we have worked to redesign our curricula, instructional practices and classroom environments to be more student-centered to boost communication and engagement. Previous reviews have focused on each of the core content areas; for this round, TZHS Principal Rudy Arietta suggested a thematic approach that would touch all subject areas. When we began thinking about how pandemic restrictions impacted our students, we realized that students have had limited opportunities to grow key communication skills: listening, speaking and working together. So, we decided to do something different by looking at student conversations, debates, and public speaking.”

The review is being conducted by the Tri-State Consortium, an alliance of public school districts committed to systems thinking and collaborative inquiry as pathways toward continuous improvement. The team reviewing SOCSD is composed of educators from Allendale, Ardsley, Chappaqua, Harrison, Hastings on Hudson, Irvington, New Canaan, Upper Saddle River, Warwick Valley and Sullivan West, who will provide feedback based on essential questions posed by the the District and analysis of three of the Consortium’s eight indicators of systemic performance.

The essential questions for which the District is seeking feedback are:

  • To what extent do students have opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations, debates and public speaking?
  • To what extent do student conversations connect to units of study and demonstrate growth across K-12?
  • To what extent does professional development support student conversations, debates and public speaking?

SOCSD asked that the Tri-State team focus their analysis on the following indicators: Performance-based Assessment, Student Metacognition and Curriculum and Instruction.

This morning, the Tri-State team asked SOCSD educators and administrators clarifying and probing questions before offering preliminary suggestions and observations in a Fishbowl Consultancy Protocol. “Student voice is part of the culture in South Orangetown. That is something to be really proud of,” noted Tri-State Consortium Assistant Director Lauren Allan, Ed.D., who led the SOCSD review.

A final, written report with suggestions will be shared with SOCSD in the coming weeks. The District will convene meetings to share the report with school leaders and leadership teams and develop next steps. The Tri-State team will return for a follow-up visit in 2025 to see how the District has advanced in areas of strength and implemented team recommendations.

“Our job is to ensure that all of our students are strong communicators. We want them to be comfortable expressing themselves and listening to others. The more opportunities they have and the more we teach into it, the more skilled they’ll become and the more successful they will be in school and beyond,” Culot said.

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