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Baldwin UFSD Helps Pave the Way for Equitable Graduation Requirements in NYS

Redefining Ready for New York State

Photo Caption: Forum attendees pose with Baldwin UFSD’s award-winning Virtual Enterprise (VE) simulated company, “SuppLI,” which was part of the tour of the innovative learning spaces.  

Pictured (left to right): Richard Jones, President, New York State (NYS) Council of Educational Associations; Mary Jo O’Hagan, Vice President, Baldwin UFSD Board of Education (BoE); Todd Daggett, COO, Successful Practices Network (SPN); Susan Bergtraum, President of the NYS School Boards Association; Cynthia Fitzgerald, Executive Director of HR, Nassau BOCES; Timothy Kremer, Executive Director, NYS School Boards Association; Lorraine Deller, Executive Director, Nassau Suffolk School Boards Association; Sue Cools, Trustee, Baldwin UFSD BoE; Jhone Ebert, Sr. Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy, NYS Education Dept.; Dr. Shari L. Camhi, Superintendent of Schools, Baldwin UFSD; Annie Doresca, President, Baldwin UFSD BoE; Debra Mulé, Nassau County Legislator; Tammy Reichelt, Sr. Program Associate, AASA/American Association of Community Colleges; Dr. Lorna Lewis, President, NYS Council of School Superintendents and Superintendent of Schools, Plainview-Old Bethpage; Dr. Bill Daggett, Founder and Chairman, SPN

Redefining Ready for NYS Forum

Baldwin Union Free School District recently invited education leaders from across the nation for its inaugural forum, “Redefining Ready for New York State” in an effort to foster the conversation about equitable and research-based graduation requirements. Attendees encompassed representatives from the New York State (NYS) Education Department, NYS School Boards, NYS Council of School Superintendents, The School Superintendents Association (AASA), Nassau-Suffolk School Boards, Nassau BOCES, as well as the Nassau County Legislator. Everyone who participated praised the forum, the first of its kind, for elevating the discussion about the future of education to a much higher level.

What Does College, Career, and Life Ready Look Like?

Superintendent of Schools for Baldwin UFSD, Dr. Shari L. Camhi, opened with a presentation of a New York version of The School Superintendents Association (AASA)’s “Redefining Ready.”

“The basis for AASA’s work is students being more than a standardized test,” said Dr. Camhi as she discussed very candidly the issues with today’s graduation requirements and suggested a solution by offering different pathways so that all students have an opportunity to be college, career, and life ready. As it stands now, students cannot receive a high school diploma if they do not pass required Regents exams. While many other measures of academic success currently exist, there are no alternatives for the Regents exams.

Not having a high school diploma prevents students from applying to most jobs, including Civil Service positions, as well as serving in the military. “What we believe in Baldwin School District is that we design the programs around our students,” said Dr. Camhi. “We look at our district as a whole and the type of learners that are participating in our classrooms. We then tailor our programs and academic offerings accordingly so that everyone receives a rigorous and meaningful experience in our schools.”

Dr. Camhi’s presentation followed with a tour of Baldwin High School’s redesigned learning spaces that mirror the real world of work, foster collaboration and flexibility, and enhance the learning facilitated by the teacher. Everything from lighting, desks, and technology to even the blinds on the windows were revamped to produce a learning space that maximizes the potential for student’s success.

After visiting the various types of classrooms, from the social studies/mock-trial court room to a state-of-the-art science laboratory, the forum culminated with a panel discussion and Q&A session with students from Baldwin High School’s six Academic Academies—Medical and Health Sciences, STEM, New Media, Education, Government and Law, and Global Business and Entrepreneurship. The students explained how the hands-on experience and workplace learning opportunities allowed them to contemplate with confidence which career path to take—or not to take—in the future. They were able to jump-start the decision-making process that plagues college students, leaving many in debt after changing majors multiple times or graduating with a degree that loses their interest over time or makes them unemployable.

Megan Best, a student in the Medical and Health Sciences Academy, has a sister who graduated and too, went through the same Academy. The upshot—she’s now a physician’s assistant at Mercy Hospital, where she had previously interned while a student at Baldwin High School. Another student, Trevor Watts, enrolled in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Academy, has been able to determine which engineering field to pursue, since initially, unbeknownst to him, there are many. The academies work because they offer additional resources and guidance to prepare students for college and beyond, explained Dr. Camhi.

The new pathway to graduation, coupled with innovative classroom redesign and college preparedness programs, such as the Academies, is how Baldwin UFSD is trying to “Redefine Ready.” All of these initiatives and concepts can be replicated in other districts.

By the end of their visit, everyone seemed enthusiastic about this idea of change in policy and helping other schools effectively prepare students for life after high school. “You have to show this to other people,” said Susan Bergtraum, president of the New York State School Boards Association. “because if you don’t show it, then people don’t know it.”