I was most impressed when I found out that Potsdam Central was named the top school in the North Country by Business First magazine. The rankings were based on student academic outcomes and were developed as a comparison to the thirty three schools in three North Country counties. The students, teachers, and community should be proud of this ranking. The primary, intermediate, middle, and high school programs contain excellent teachers, dedicated staff, hard-working students, and supportive parents. This collaboration is a key to this academic acknowledgement.
However, I see no irony that this recognition comes on the heels of AAK’s Re-Designation as a School to Watch by the New York State Education Department and the New York State Middle School Association. This designation is based on the Regent’s Policy on middle-level programing; the Essential Elements. These Essential Elements provide for strategies and programming which lead to success in the middle, an oft misunderstood component to the K – 12 continuum. The basic tenants in the Essential Elements are to provide an academically rich curriculum in an organizational structure that cares for the social emotional needs of each child. The Essential Elements Rubric is an extraordinary guide to finding success in the middle. Therefore, if you want improvement in the middle-level, then look to the Essential Elements as a guide.
One aspect which sets the Essential Elements apart from many of the other program enhancing evaluative structures is that the student need comes to the forefront. A child’s social and emotional necessities have to be addressed if we are to expect a child to thrive. We can look towards Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to demonstrate this import; if a child is hungry – the deep-belly hunger that many of our students of poverty experience – then they won’t be thinking of algebra during math class. If they’re not sure where “home” will be tonight, then the science lesson loses effect. If a child’s basic needs are not met, then we cannot assume they will be able to learn. This idea is demonstrated in the recent DASA regulations, which ensure that our children feel safe when they are at school, another basic need. At AAK, our faculty and staff have excelled in helping these children transition from elementary to high school – addressing the individual need each child demonstrates. A strong middle-level which defines their programming based on the Essential Elements will find their students academically successful. I see significance between our two recent designations. Overall academic success cannot exist without excellence in all key components in the K – 12 continuum, involving the entire school community.
I congratulate the Potsdam Educational Community for their commitment to excellence. I would encourage all middle-level practitioners to use the guide that SED provided, the Essential Elements.