Curriculum and Activities Fair Showcases Student Opportunities and Offerings!

As parents of our incoming 8th Graders (the Class of 2022) were learning more about their child’s first year at Wheatley, parents of current Wheatley students were learning more about the many offerings, programs and opportunities in grades 9-12 through our Curriculum and Activities Fair.

Over the course of the evening, parents were able to attend sessions on the following specific topics:

  • SWS/English/Social Studies options (for parents of 9th graders)
  • STEM Overview, including PLTW, Computer Science, Mathematics and Science offerings
  • World Language Exchange programs
  • AP course options, Dual Enrollment courses, AP Capstone, alternative diploma pathways

Parents also had an opportunity to learn about our co-curricular offerings, including our many clubs and activities. It was an evening of information and activity! A huge “Thank You” to the department supervisors, club advisors, and classroom teachers who helped make this night both informative and exciting!

You can download some of the information distributed through the following links:

The Robot was in the house!

Orientation for Parents of Incoming 8th Graders!

On Thursday evening, we welcomed parents of incoming 8th Graders (the Class of 2022) to Wheatley so they could learn about Wheatley, our many offerings and our ongoing support of all of our students. After providing parents with a varied overview of Wheatley, we turned the program over to a panel of wonderful students who answered questions from parents.

The 8th grade student panelists were:

Thank you to our Director of Guidance, Mr. Greg Wasserman, for moderating the student panel! Thank you as well to our wonderful Wheatley PTO for providing the refreshments for the evening!

Handouts from the evening include:

Wheatley Doors are Open For Alumni Day 2016!

Each year, Wheatley welcomes recent graduates back so that they might share their wisdom and experiences to our older students. This Alumni Day event has been a highlight of the year for faculty and students alike.

This year, scores of students returned to Wheatley for Alumni Day. Although many of them spent time interacting informally with students and teachers, several alumni participated in an informative panel discussion led by two members of the Class of 2017: Lianna Golden and Lindsay Mosca. During this panel discussion, our recent alumni were able to share what they learned during their first few months at college, what they learned through the college application process and what students should expect when they head off to college.

We are thankful for the participation of our students and the organization of Lauren Silverstein, who took care of all the details necessary to make alumni day a success for all!


Steven Dodge from The S.L.A.T.E. Project Captivates Students with his Story

As part of our Red Ribbon Week, we had the great fortune of inviting Steven Dodge from The S.L.A.T.E. Project to speak to our 11th and 12th graders. Steven spoke candidly about his experiences growing up, from his first guzzle of beer at age 10 to his eventual drug addiction and the rapid downward spiral his life took. Steven also shared details about his life as a recovering addict, with the feeling that every moment alive is a gift that must be cherished.

Students were deeply impacted by his story and thankful for the chance to hear warnings from someone not much older than they are.

Rohan Murphy Showcases a “No Excuses” Attitude!

As part of our Red Ribbon week, Rohan Murphy presented to the students at Willets Road (in the morning) and at Wheatley (in the afternoon). Rohan, who lost both of his legs at birth, overcame the isolation and challenges he felt as a youth through hard work, determination and a positive attitude. Through the encouragement of a teacher, Rohan began wrestling in high school, eventually earning a spot on Penn State’s wrestling team.

In a warm and engaging conversation style, Rohan shared both his struggles and his successes with students. He also shared the 20/20 feature from a few years ago.

One of the highlights of the presentation was when Rohan demonstrated a wrestling move on Liam, one of our 9th graders. (As you can see in the video, Liam handled himself so wonderfully!)

Wheatley and Newsweek’s High School Rankings

Last month, yet another organization published its listing of the top high schools in the United States. This time, it was Newsweek’s “America’s Top High Schools” ranking list. As I quickly heard from some parents, Wheatley was not included in this year’s Newsweek rankings list.

As some of you may know, I do not hold these lists in high regard—even when Wheatley is ranked very high on the list. I have presented overviews of the various ranking systems to the Board of Education. I have also written a lengthy analysis of problems with the 2015 US News & World Report rankings (these problems were investigated further by a national educational expert).

As there is no objective way in which one can possible determine which high schools are “the best” in the country, the ranking systems reflect more about the specific values of the designers than actual reality. That said, I recognize the importance of understanding these various ranking systems and how Wheatley’s overall outstanding performance fits into their methodologies.

So why did Wheatley — a school ranked in the top 1% of schools in other ranking systems — fail to get ranked at all by Newsweek? The answer is clear: Newsweek simply gathers data from a national site without any attempt to understand the data. As a result, student scores on the 8th grade NYS Assessments were used to determine Wheatley’s high school proficiency rate.

Let me explain…

A few notes about the Newsweek Ranking Methodology:

  1. The Newsweek methodology speaks of a multi-step, data-centered process in order to reduce its 16,285 public high schools to a list of 500. The public data used were from the 2012-13 school year. This is the data set that is used to determine which schools receive an invitation to complete a Newsweek-specific survey. Only schools invited to complete this survey are included in the rankings.
  2. In order to determine which schools met the “Threshold Index” necessary to receive an invitation to complete a survey to appear on the final list, Newsweek calculated a weighted index consisting of mathematics and English performance. In order to be considered for the full National Ranking list, a school needed to have a combined performance index that placed it at the top 30% of schools in its state.

In an email, Newsweek informed me that Wheatley did not have a combined performance index that placed it in the top 30% of New York State schools. Goodness…anyone familiar with the performance of Wheatley students is well aware that this is absolutely nonsense!

Here is what I found when I investigated Newsweek’s methodology and the data it used.

Data Difficulties

The reason why Newsweek did not feel that Wheatley met the initial threshold criteria is the result of the particularity of Wheatley’s 8-12 configuration. For data classification at the federal level, Wheatley is considered a single entity. As such, the performance of our 8th graders on their NYS 8th Grade Assessments is included in our overall performance index. Once again, the 8th Grade NYS exams are included along with the high school Regents examinations as part of the threshold calculation. Due to the nature of the 8th Grade assessments, Wheatley’s overall performance index was lowered significantly.

Since other high schools that are connected to middle school grades have a separate code for these grades, the Grade 8 assessments do not impact the high school performance index.

To illustrate, the table below includes the Long Island schools that are included in the top 300 positions of Newsweek’s list. The passing rates for the English Regents (typically taken in 11th grade) and the Integrated Algebra exam (typically taken in 8th or 9th grade) are included for each district. Since many high school students take the Integrated Algebra exam in middle school, the Integrated Geometry exam becomes the exam considered in the performance index. The passing rate for this exam is included as well.

As per Newsweek’s Methodology, these intitial data are from 2012-13.

Regents Test Scores

When looking only at our Regents passing rates for these three examinations, Wheatley students perform at an exceptionally high level. Since Wheatley is considered a single entity for grades 8-12, Newsweek included student performance on the 8th grade middle school assessments as part of our high school performance index.

Once again, a typical 7-12 school has one code for its middle grades and a separate code for its high school grades.

It should be noted that for the 2012-13 school year (the year on which Newsweek based its threshold calculations), students taking Integrated Algebra (a high school course) in the 8th grade were required to take the NYS 8th Grade Assessment as well — despite the fact that the two curricula are quite different.

Despite our students’ outstanding performance at these high school examinations (99% in English and 97% in Algebra), the inclusion of the middle school test scores lowered Wheatley’s overall proficiency rate (to 82% in English and 71% in Mathematics) and prevented Wheatley from even being considered as a top high school.

It is important to note that this is the only place where performance in the middle grades had any impact on a high school’s performance index. The other national ranking systems — US News & World Report and the Challenge Index — do not use middle level performance to determine high school rankings.

These lower (combined) rates prevented Wheatley from exceeding Newsweek’s threshold index value. This is why Wheatley was never even considered for Newsweek’s top high school ranking list.

Students at Wheatley are finding academic success at unprecedented rates and numbers. On so many levels, students are dazzling our faculty with their achievements. Most importantly, their academic success is coupled with a wonderful blend of community service, athletic engagement, artistic accomplishment and general kindness to each other. These are all components of a high-quality school, and they are abundant at our school.

At any school, student performance fluctuates from year to year. We monitor the results of student assessments — whether school-based, state-based or nationally-based— and make adjustments in our curricula, pedagogy and support in order to help students be as successful as possible. When the data appear to be suspect (as in the case of the Newsweek rankings), we investigate in order to prevent blind adherance to data from leading us to faulty conclusions.

Class of 2021 is Welcomed to Wheatley!

Over the past two days, our Guidance Department, our Wheatley Welcomers and many of our faculty welcomed our newest students to Wheatley. As part of the 8th Grade Orientation, students had an opportunity to engage in a wide range of activities, including:

  • a tour the building and a walk-through of their schedule
  • a highlight of some of the parts of the student agenda
  • a presentation on Social Media safety from a police officer
  • team building activities through our “Guidance Olympics”
  • a presentation on resolving problems and issues as a student
  • pickup of their Chromebook
  • pickup of their locks and selection of their lockers

With over 130 students participating in the orientation program, the two half-days were filled with fun and excitement!