HFCS Jumps 14 Spots In State Academic Standings
by Alex Brooks
Before the HFCS Board meeting on Thursday, August 20, the Board spent two hours on the final revisions of the Code of Conduct manual. It is to be ready for the Tuesday evening parents and athletes session on August 25. The Board agreed to review the code of conduct and the safety manual every year and update them if necessary. “We must be a society held to high standards,” said Superintendent Ken Facin.
The meeting opened with Superintendent Facin introducing the 2008-2009 State of the Schools report. He said HFCS had the largest improvement in State standings, jumping 14 spots to #49. “Am I satisfied?” he asked. “Absolutely not. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Dropout rates are high and graduation rates low in the male, special education, economically deprived group. “We have to maximize their potential,” he said. “The Board has made an incredible decision to work to achieve a 90% passing rate on regents exams and a 90% graduation rate.”
“From now on we will ask more of all our students and their parents,” said Facin, and he was referring both to academic achievement and other things, like community service. This year from kindergarten through eleventh grade each class will be involved in one meaningful event to benefit the community, and seniors will be asked to perform 20 hours of community service. The Superintendent said, “We are providing more field trips that will complement the student’s studies and inspire the kids to do well.” All students will be encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities such as Chess Club, the arts and sports.
A great deal of data was presented about student performance on a wide range of assessment tests given at all levels of the District. The most comprehensive study presented was a compilation of test results from all grade levels over a four year period. It showed steady progress over the four years from 05-06 to 08-09 in the percentage of students who are meeting or exceeding the learning standards set by the state. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding the learning standards increased from 70% in 05-06 to 85% in 08-09, while those not meeting the standards or only partially meeting them decreased from 30% to 15%.
The graduation rate over those four years was less encouraging, hovering in the low eighties over those four years. In fact it went down slightly from 83% in 05-06 to 81% in 08-09. Also presented was data on the number of students who failed one or more of their classes, organized by year of graduation. The seniors had the least failures – ten students failed one course and one student failed two. The next three grades in the high school each had about 21 students who failed one or more classes. The largest number of failures were in the class that will graduate in 2013, in which 38 students failed one class or more and 16 of those failed four or more classes. Facin called these figures “alarming and unacceptable,” and said the District will be focusing its efforts on improving the performance of its middle school students. He emphasized that success in middle school is fundamental to a successful high school career. “From now on middle school students must pass everything or go to summer school. The standards for graduation have increased, and some kids need more time. We have set a high standard, and our kids can do it.”
Facin said one thing that will have a significant impact on student performance is the curriculum work done by the teachers and the administration this summer. “There has been great communication throughout the system,” said Facin, and he is confident that the result will be to strengthen the school. He also noted, now that the three years of summer construction are completed, the District will be able to offer summer programs on its own campus starting next summer, which will be helpful to students who are having trouble keeping up.
Facin said school will start on time. Work on the school buildings is substantially completed. Some of the playing fields that were being worked on will not be ready until after the fall season. The Board will be doing it annual walk-through to inspect the school buildings and grounds on September 2 at 7 am, starting from the High School Cafeteria.