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Speaker: Focus on student achievement

POSTED 4/11/2013
Merged district urged to focus on student achievement, 21st century education
An internationally recognized leader in educational reform is urging the future board of education of newly merged Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District to focus the majority of its time on student achievement.
Speaking at the St. Johnsville High School auditorium on Wednesday, April 10, Dr. Bill Daggett, the founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education, encouraged board members to focus 75 percent of each of their board meetings on student achievement. 

Voters in Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville will elect members to the merged district’s first board of education on Tuesday, April 16.

“What business are we in if it’s not student achievement,” Daggett said, warning board members not to get bogged down in day-to-day school district operations, which, he said, should be left to administrators. 

Daggett has assisted a number of states and hundreds of school districts with their school improvement initiatives. He has also collaborated with education ministries in several countries and with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governors Association and many other national organizations. 

A Fulton County native, Daggett began his career in education teaching at Amsterdam High School. He lives in Niskayuna. 

Daggett’s presentation, “A New Vision for Public Education,” was part a superintendent’s conference day training at the school, which welcomed teachers from Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville, OESJ board candidates and members of the public.

During his presentation Daggett warned that redesigned state tests, which are expected to result in a significant drop in student test scores statewide, could bring undue criticism upon the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville merger. 

In 2010, the state began redesigning its 3-8 grade assessments in math and English language arts to reflect the Common Core Learning Standards. More changes in the state tests will be implemented this year and in subsequent years. 

“You need to tell parents they can’t compare how well their child is doing now compared to two years from now,” Daggett said, noting that parents may incorrectly blame the merger for the drop in student scores. 

The state Department of Education has confirmed that new test scores will not be directly comparable to previous years because the focus of the material will shift to more rigorous standards.

Specifically urging the integration of technology, Daggett encouraged teachers, staff and board members of the new district to use the additional state funding the merger will draw to bring the new district into the 21st century. 
“The issue bigger than merging the two districts is merging the schools with the outside world,”  he said, telling the audience that change, driven by technology, is occurring elsewhere in society four to five times faster than in the nation’s public schools.  

According to Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel, who has been guiding the merger process since December, significant funding has been placed in the merged district’s proposed 2013-14 budget to allow staff to explore innovative educational practices and technology integration. 

“I agree with Dr. Daggett. You should take advantage of this money to put yourself on a sustainable track to the 21st century,” Dr. Patrick Michel told the audience, expressing hope the board of education will maintain the funding. “You have the ability now to really take control of the educational future of this community.”
Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville voters will vote on the district’s proposed budget May 21. 

After his appearance in St. Johnsville, Daggett also meet with area CEOs at HFM BOCES and spoke to board of education members from around the region at the BOCES annual meeting. He’s speaking next at the National School Boards Association’s annual meeting on Saturday, April 13 in San Diego.

Caption: Dr. Bill Daggett speaks at OESJ April 10.