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Actress, award-winning author, and education advocate Sonia Manzano will give a talk at The Harvey School on Sunday, December 10 at 4. Best known as Maria on “Sesame Street”, Manzano has inspired and delighted children and families for over 30 years. She broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television, was in the original cast of “Godspell”, and is the author of several books, including a memoir, “Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx”, a young adult novel, “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano”, and a children’s book, “No Dogs Allowed”.

After sharing her humorous and substantive experiences, the master storyteller will stay for a Q&A and book signing afterwards.

General admission is $35 for adults. Seating is limited. For tickets, go to www.harveyschool.org/harveypresents or call 232-3161, ext. 161.

 

The College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program identifies academically outstanding Hispanic/Latino students based on their PSAT’s, which they took during their junior year. Approximately 5,300 students nationwide were named National Hispanic Program Scholars. All seven of Rye High’s National Hispanic students were honored as Scholars based on their high school GPA.

Pictured with Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne and Principal Patricia Taylor are, from left: Rebecca Daniels, Shoshana Daniels, Ariel Daniels, Gabriel Mazuera, Pablo Mazuera, and Dylan Urbanczyk. Not pictured: Andrew Gomez

 

By Janice Llanes Fabry

Rye Neck High School junior Jazzy Cores is playing the female lead in Disney’s blockbuster “Newsies” at Archbishop Stepinac High School. The all-boy Catholic school in White Plains was one of five high schools in the country, and the only one in New York, chosen to stage a pilot production of the musical before it is released to general licensing. 

Girls from surrounding schools were invited to fill the female roles, which is where Cores comes in. “I saw an audition notice on Facebook and immediately started preparing. I watched ‘Newsies’ videos, asked my voice coach for help, and drank a lot of tea.”

Cores’ coach of four years, Gigi Keeffe-Schwartzman, an award-winning singer, prominent voice teacher, and vocal health coach, assisted with lyrics and capturing a song’s emotion. Subsequently, the talented young performer aced her first audition at Stepinac by singing a piece from “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” in which she had played the title role at the Rye Neck Middle School’s production a few years ago. She also tapped her way into the heart of the theater director with a jazzy sequence at the unexpected dance audition the same day.

Two days later, Cores received a call back notice that she was one of six actors returning for a second audition. A week later, she found out she had landed the role.

“It was very surreal. I opened the email from Stepinac with my friends after school and I was so happy, I was practically in tears,” she remarked. “The role of Katherine Plumber is a dream role of mine. The character’s songs are upbeat and funny and I love her because she’s determined to be a reporter in a day and age when women weren’t given those opportunities.”

Cores, herself, is as tenacious and plucky as the character she will play. Not only did she sing and dance around the house as a child, her father called her Jazzy, a nickname for Jasmine, which turned out to be a pretty catchy stage name.

She caught the acting bug early on when her parents took her to kid-friendly Broadway musicals for her birthday every year. During intermission at a production of “Peter Pan” at the Westchester Broadway Dinner Theater, an audition notice in the playbill caught her eye. At age 9, she tried out and was cast in “Big River” with Lighthouse Youth Theatre, and has been on stage ever since.

She won a National Youth Theatre Award for her portrayal of Mille. She played the sassy Serena doing the “bend and snap” in Rye Neck High School’s production of “Legally Blonde,” and the hopeful and resolute Cinderella in the school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” last year. Cores also won “Rye’s Got Talent” contest in 2015 for singing “Little Mermaid’s” “Part of Your World.”

<“Newsies” will be performed at Stepinac’s Major Bowes Auditorium on December 1, 2, 8, and 9 at 7:30, and December 9 and 10 at 2. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and children. For more information, visit stepinac.org or call 946-4800.>

 

Rye Neck junior Jazzy Cores

 

Every fall, Rye High School seniors work tirelessly for weeks leading up to October 31. No, it’s not the deadline date for college applications, but something far more important, the Senior Halloween Skits.

The seniors form their own performing groups and choreograph dances to a “mash-up” of songs and compete for best, most creative performance. Costumes are mandatory and always hilarious.

It is one of the most heart-warming and sidesplitting performances of the year, bar none.

— Annette McLoughlin

 

By Andrea Alban-Davies

Have you spent time in your child’s classroom recently? If so, you most likely recognized, instantly, how little has changed since you were a kid, or even since your parents were kids. Sure, the desks are no longer organized in neat little rows, but are, instead, arranged into small groups. And, yes, there are small nods to how radically our world has changed, with a white board replacing the blackboard, and computers and tablets lining the back wall. The pedagogy, however, remains largely unchanged.  

The teacher is the source of information, and the methodology of imparting that knowledge is principally through direct instruction: the teacher talks, the students listen. The teacher asks questions and students endeavor to produce the answer(s) that the teacher is looking for. Worksheets and textbooks (with their broad, but shallow, coverage of content) are still alive and well, both in the classroom and the homework folder. Students are asked to listen, memorize, repeat, and retain. Perhaps the only meaningful difference for this generation is how frequently they are tested and assessed. This can all either feel comfortably familiar and reassuring... or somewhat alarming given what is needed to succeed in the world we live in today versus the industrial world that public school has been preparing children for over the last century and a half.  

To be sure, none of this is particularly new; warning bells have been sounding for decades on the need to change our traditional public school education system. But sometimes even those who listen to the research and understand the urgent need for change can get so bogged down in the ‘how’, that they end up throwing up their hands and settling for small tweaks around the margins (after all, the system that seems to be working ok for now), leaving the core unchanged. That is why it was such a true privilege to have Chris Dede, Harvard Professor of Education, come speak publicly (at the invitation of the Rye City School District) about how large-scale formal education can be — and, in fact, is being — transformed in schools around the country through the use of digital technologies. He has spent an entire career contemplating questions surrounding how to keep our classrooms relevant, and how to prepare today’s students for the workplace of the future.

Currently, his journey finds him working with colleagues on technology-based solutions that foster immersive learning, complex causal reasoning, and teamwork, among many other things, and that are in use today in a diverse group of schools. (Incidentally, he and his colleagues make many of these resources available for free.)

Professor Dede began his talk by outlining the limits of our current model. He used the metaphor of teaching a student to operate a “player piano” to describe the current state of public education. It’s just fine, as long as the world demands that someone turn a crank and predictable, replicable music comes out. The problem arises, however, when we’re living in a world that increasingly needs people to play in what Professor Dede called the “jazz combo”. Those of us in the audience didn’t need to know much about music to understand what he was saying: learning how to operate a player piano will not afford you the skills and flexibility to play in tomorrow’s jazz combo.

He proposed a new kind of classroom. One where the teacher is a facilitator (not a lecturer), the student is a symbolic analyst (not a clerk), learning is about thinking skills (not information transfer), cognition is about process (not warehousing information), the unit is a team (not an individual), assessment is authentic/portfolio-based over time (not a multiple choice test), and the questions are asked and answered primarily by the students (not the teacher). He was talking about preparing our students for an innovation-based economy, where the key regarding knowledge isn’t about how much you can store, but rather how you use the knowledge, dissect it, put it back together, make inferences from it, and, most importantly, use it to formulate the next important question, which often may not have an answer — yet.

He then showed us in more detail the real digital technology solutions that he is collaborating on for use by students as early as third grade. They are so exciting not only for the incredible multi-faceted learning opportunities they afford, but also because they are accessible to every district and its teachers that are willing to invest time and thought into addressing the new challenges their students will face when they leave their classrooms.

While digital technologies are not the solution to all of the problems we face, in large schools like ours they could be a bridge to the kind of classroom that Professor Dede champions, both when they are <and aren’t > in use. Best of all? They don’t require us to tear down the entire system that we’ve built — a system with many strengths, including a rock-solid community, strong social cohesion, and a deep commitment to intellectual values — but, instead, allow us to build upon our strengths to find the best way forward for our students.  

Sure, we’ll probably need to rely on experts during the transition, and surely there will be painful bumps (and perhaps dips in some traditional metrics) along the way, but if the product is creative, collaborative, flexible, inquisitive, self-starting, accepting, communicative, innovative, engaged, and happy graduates — citizens ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century — isn’t it worth it?

By Bob Zahm

The Rye Neck School District’s 2016/17 NY State standardized test results for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math declined both in absolute passing rate and county ranking compared to last year. The number of Rye Neck students taking the test increased: 511 to 572 in ELA, and 496 to 552 in Math. The opt-out rate declined from 31% to 27.1%.

The following tables show the percentages of students passing the ELA and Math tests over the past five years for the top five Westchester Country districts and for Rye Neck. In Math, Rye Neck has declined over the past three years from 10th to 15th in the County. In ELA, the District has declined from 14th to 18th.

District 2017 ELA Student ELA Passing %
  Rank 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
BRONXVILLE 1 75.8% 72.2% 66.0% 71.7% 68.6%
CHAPPAQUA 2 75.3% 71.9% 65.6% 70.2% 70.3%
SCARSDALE 3 74.3% 73.3% 63.6% 65.1% 68.9%
EDGEMONT 4 73.3% 74.4% 66.8% 61.8% 64.7%
IRVINGTON 5 71.2% 70.7% 63.9% 62.4% 62.2%
RYE NECK 18 61.9% 62.2% 57.3% 56.2% 58.6%
District 2017 Math Student Math Passing %
  Rank 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
CHAPPAQUA 1 82.1% 80.2% 78.2% 78.4% 70.6%
SCARSDALE 2 82.0% 80.3% 74.9% 71.5% 68.1%
EDGEMONT 3 80.4% 79.7% 75.7% 70.8% 64.5%
BRONXVILLE 4 80.1% 78.3% 75.5% 71.8% 60.5%
KATONAH 5 77.8% 71.0% 72.9% 67.1% 63.4%
RYE NECK 15 67.6% 69.6% 70.6% 63.8% 59.5%
Test Rye Neck Students Tested
  2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
ELA 572 511 539 728 712
Math 552 496 511 689 721

To gain insight into the District’s views of the state tests, we spoke with Superintendent Dr. Barbara Ferraro and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Eric Lutinski. They said, “State Education Department test data for grades 3-8 is not a good measure of student performance.” The Rye Neck School District employs four of its own assessments using a tool called i-Ready, which collects quarterly grades, a final exam, and other data to develop a comprehensive picture of each student’s performance. Based on that data, the District seeks to identify and address individual student’s learning needs. The emphasis is placed on the lowest performing students. (Rye Neck’s four internal assessments are evidently not designed to provide comparative data on the District’s annual progress, or on its progress relative to other school districts.)

The District says that it is monitoring “students’ skills over the long-term to graduation.” They cite, for example, Rye Neck’s 11th-grade Regents English “excellent” scores (96% proficiency and above).