Collingswood Schools State Report Card: Superintendent Scott Oswald's Take
Superintendent Scott Oswald offers his thoughts on the 2011 New Jersey State Report Card for Collingswood. In a separate letter, Patch reader Joanna Mills sent us her analysis of the data.
To the editor:
I can't disagree with the letter writer on the statistics. Without reviewing stat-by-stat, I will assume he or she copied the numbers correctly.
As anyone who has worked one day in education knows, there are many factors at play when discussing student achievement. While great teachers are certainly capable of producing impressive results, factors such as student mobility, educational attainment levels of parents, community income as measured by numbers of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, etc. are also factors that impact achievement levels in Collingswood and in other communities. While those not working in education often refer to these factors as excuses, the statistics demonstrate that there is certainly an impact.
Students who attend the Collingswood Schools K-12, including those who attend our sending districts all the way through, achieve very well. We send students from Collingswood, Woodlynne, and Oaklyn to some great colleges and universities—the same schools students attend after graduating from some of the high schools listed by the writer and many of the private schools in the area. Some of our very capable students attend Camden County College for two years because it makes sense to them and their families financially. Those students, too, could often go anywhere they choose, as evidenced by their acceptance letters.
Students attending two, three or more schools prior to arriving to us often struggle. That is reality and it won't be different anywhere else. We have programs in place to meet any struggling learners where they are and help them advance as quickly and steadily as possible. This level of programming is expensive. If we wish to ignore the needs of these learners, we could certainly reduce our per-pupil costs. We choose to put the students and their needs first.
I, too, wish academics drew as much outside attention as some of the other activities in our schools. I joke with the administrators all the time; few people share their concerns about the math program, but propose starting school five minutes earlier, shorten a Halloween parade or suggest a change in a coach and the phones ring off the hook. I'm certain this issue is not unique to Collingswood, but as someone who spends my days working hard to challenge and empower our teachers to stretch our kids to their highest academic potential, it is, nonetheless, frustrating.
I can assure the writer that our teachers and administrators are focused on student achievement. I invite anyone who has questions about the programs we offer in Collingswood to call or email me and schedule a personal visit. We routinely focus on three questions for everything we teach: What are we teaching (the curriculum and the rigor); how do we know the students are learning it (the assessments); and, how do we respond when they do not (the interventions)? Most people who visit our schools, talk to our teachers, and watch how hard our kids work leave with a very different impression than the one they held when they arrived.
Finally, we are looking at a change in our academic schedule and homeroom ultimately will be eliminated.
Collingswood Public Schools superintendent
To view the full report, click here; a state guide to its interpretation is here. You can also read a letter to the editor from Patch reader Joanna Mills, in which she analyzes the school report card data.