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Monday, Jun 25, 2012

Recognition Day 2012

Changes and Successes and Awards . . . Oh My!

A very successful school year, with many more ahead


Berkshire High School Principal Greg Pasos proudly congratulates one of our newest graduates.


The hundreds of family members and friends of students at Berkshire High School were on hand to celebrate accomplishments and witness some of the dramatic changes by these young men. All 11 seniors at Berkshire High graduated, four of those with Regents diplomas, and most are going on to college. Nine graduates received substantial financial assistance for their college expenses from the Mott Family Scholarship Fund.

This resounding success is due to intensive efforts at the school to improve learning by students. Teachers look beyond the material they have taught; rather, they make sure their students have really learned what they need to.

This remarkable transformation set the stage for these students’ successes. One good example is the school’s culture. Students are viewed as future graduates; they are here to learn — not to serve time. Many of the young men who come to live at Berkshire Farm Center see no real future for themselves, but that certainly changes by the time they return home. Fueled by their own successes and accomplishments, many go on to college — others are ready to find a good job. And they are definitely ready!

“Beyond the classes in school and therapy by Berkshire Farm Center's counselors and clinicians, these young men get a big boost by Berkshire’s Workforce Development Program,” explained Timothy Giacchetta, CEO of Berkshire Farm Center and President of Berkshire Union Free School District’s Board of Education. “Our students get lots of opportunities to learn valuable job skills, gain real-world experience, and even earn a paycheck.”

Recently, two Berkshire students worked as “externs” at NancyScans, a local business and a leader in display fabrication and printing. They worked alongside highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals and gained invaluable experience, while earning a salary.

The school, located on Berkshire Farm Center’s residential treatment campus, has also created Professional Learning Communities (PLC), considered among the greatest school reform initiatives.

“Implementing a PLC and becoming a School of Continuous Improvement allowed us as a school community to achieve the results we celebrated on Recognition Day,” said school Superintendent Bruce Potter. “Developing our partnership with Berkshire Farm Center was key to making this happen.”

Some other examples of changes at the school include:

  • Using Common Formative Assessments, the school continually analyzes the two most essential questions in education: What do we want students to learn and be able to do? and How will we know if they have learned it? These assessments are the most effective instructional strategy employed by teams of teachers in each core area and are an example of the focus being on learning rather than teaching.
  • A consistent homework policy between the school and Berkshire Farm Center means cottage staff and counselors support the teacher's intentions and student’s expectations.
  • A new grading policy features a “no zero” policy. There is no time limit on learning; students can redo work until they are proficient. This is a great strategy to improve learning, especially with Special Education students, who shouldn’t be hampered with time constraints. Proficiency or mastery is the standard, rather than a numerical average.
  • Math and ELA Labs focus on learning and vary the time and opportunity for learning when working with struggling learners. Classes are individualized to the learning needs of each individual student. Rather than lowering a bar, the labs provide additional opportunities to learn or demonstrate a standard or skill.
  • Because of these and other reform initiatives, Berkshire was tapped by the local BOCES, Questar III to participate in a three-county Special Education Task Force. As a result of this task force Questar III is piloting a Professional Learning Community at one of their programs, The George Washington Academy. They are also adopting some of Berkshire’s staffing patterns by adding behavioral aides to their program.

Berkshire Farm Center and Berkshire High School are expanding PLC implementation across the campus and are preparing to build on our current success to maximize students’ learning in the classroom, in their cottages, and in the workplace as well!

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