Superintendent Update: Test Scores and Vaping Concerns

May 7, 2019

Working to Improve Test Scores

A recent article in the Daily Mail pointed out a challenge that Cairo-Durham CSD must overcome, and that is low scores on standardized tests such as the SAT.

Although Cairo-Durham was identified as a low-scoring district for the SAT, which measures verbal and math skills of students moving on to college, our scores are not far from the state average. In 2018, the statewide average score was 1068 and Cairo-Durham students scored an average of 1033 on both sections of the exam.

However, there is still room for improvement in student performance on these exams. In response to low test scores on the SATs, as well as the Grades 3-8 New York State assessments for ELA and Math, the Board of Education has invested in improving the education for all students in the 2019-2020 budget.

Improvements include hiring a full-time Curriculum & Instruction person who will work directly with teachers and administrators to make sure our practices and teaching strategies are based on research and proven best practices. This is a significant investment that will pay off for our students in the future.

The Board of Education also added a new Social Worker position at the elementary school to the proposed budget, which will go before district voters on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The Social Worker will help develop stronger relationships between the District and the community and will help mitigate some of the factors that impinge on student achievement. To learn more about the proposed budget for the 2019-20 school year, visit our Budget Information webpage.

A Plan for Improvement

The District is now in the early stages of writing an improvement plan based on the State Education Department’s recent classification of the elementary school as a CSI, or a Comprehensive Support and Improvement School. The plan, when finished this summer, will incorporate definitive and specific measures and changes the elementary school will take to improve student academic performance. A team of administrators and teachers will develop the plan based on NYSED recommendations and feedback from various stakeholders.

Concerns About E-Cigarettes and Vaping

Another topic I would like to bring attention to is the danger of e-cigarettes, particularly among our youth. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices are quickly becoming an epidemic and the potential dangers are immense. A 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found 21% of high school students, and even more middle school students (48%), are using e-cigarettes. State law banned e-cigarettes from all school property in 2017, however schools across the country are still facing this challenge as smaller, more discreet vaping devices become available.

E-cigarettes come in several forms and are also known as vapes, vape pens, or JUULs (which is a brand name pronounced like “jewel”). Some e-cigarettes may look similar to a thick pen or a stylus used on electronic screens. The JUUL brand is a sleek, small e-cigarette that resembles a flash drive. Unlike other types of e-cigarettes, JUUL does not look like a traditional cigarette and thus may not be immediately identifiable as a vaping device. Instead of a cylindrical shape, JUUL is a thin, flat rectangular shape. These devices are easily concealed so knowing what to look for is key.

There are many health concerns linked to vaping and the use of e-cigarettes. One pod or cartridge of the liquid contained in the device reportedly has twice the amount of nicotine found in a pack of cigarettes. Besides a high dose of nicotine, the inhaled vapor may contain harmful ingredients such as THC (a chemical found in marijuana), ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorants such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to serious lung disease) and other potentially dangerous substances. Even though e-cigarettes are marketed as being tobacco-free, there are many other dangerous chemicals in traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes that are more harmful than tobacco. People who are exposed to these chemicals have a higher chance of developing serious health issues. Furthermore, the liquids that are vaporized can come in different flavors such as bubble gum, mint, and cotton candy, which can make the devices appealing to children.

I share this information so you are aware of the details and safety concerns, and so you can speak with your child about making healthy decisions. Please contact your child’s school if you have any concerns.

Doug Kelley
Interim Superintendent