The statistics that define the Teaneck School District are concerning. Whereas the district spends $33,399 per Teaneck student, the academic achievement levels of Teaneck students do not reflect the financial support provided. According to School Review, English/Language Arts achievement for Teaneck students is 44% below the state average, and mathematics achievement is 22% below the state average. The average SAT score is 1,140, placing our district 30th out of 42 secondary schools in Bergen County. Even though achievement tests at any level are limited resources for assessing overall achievement, and school closures during COVID created havoc for students, the statistics do not reflect well on student academic achievement.
“In the broadest sense, education includes all those experiences by which intelligence is developed, knowledge acquired and character is formed.” (Encyclopedia, 1913). The numbers for Teaneck students indicate that basic knowledge is not being acquired as strongly as necessary in today’s environment. Whereas strong financial resources continue to be allocated districtwide, strengthening basic academic areas pre-K-12 remains a priority. A board of education is responsible to sensitize and to ensure that a school district addresses areas that need improvement. The focus of funds should be on updating staff skills, limiting ratios between staff and students, maximizing instructional time and ensuring the supplies and physical plants meet safety criteria and do not interfere with the daily educational programs.
The board’s goals should prioritize the academic achievement of all students. This occurs when all staff are provided with the most current and effective strategies for student academic growth and the materials and staff to utilize them. The board must ensure that administrators provide staff development that stretches the repertoires of faculty and helps to create a productive dialogue among staff.
As board members, we also need to create venues for parents to partner with faculty to benefit student academic achievement and to reinforce at home what is being presented at school. The questions are not only what can the district do to ensure maximum student growth with research-based strategies, but what should parents do to reinforce the work of the faculty. Educational forums for faculty and parents, outside speakers and regular teacher/parent conferences and communications ensure that the parent-teacher partnership is strong and will maximize student growth. It is an important ingredient for student success.
As a former assistant superintendent of schools and public school principal in several diverse school districts, as well as a headmaster of several private schools, I am eager to help set the dialogue for the success of the Teaneck Board of Education. Strengthening students’ literacy, communication and mathematics skills are paramount and reflect well on student growth and the success of any school district. David Gruber, James Wolff and I are determined to positively affect the partnership between the board and community for the benefit of all students.