June 27, 2014

Passing the test

No generation before has been as completely tested and analyzed, measured and charted, in a way that today’s students are. Judging by reactions at Tuesday’s graduations of Fox Lane and John Jay high schools at ceremonies at Caramoor in Katonah, the students passed with flying colors.

The challenges were significant. In New York state our students were already faced with life-altering and determining tests like the SATs, the ACTs and the Regents exams.

The Common Core curriculum added another layer to their test schedule, including changes to the math and English Language Arts that every well-prepared student must now master in order to pursue the college and career of their choice.

As challenging as these additional tests are — so onerous to some that states and school districts throughout the country have protested their adoption — there is the sense that they are necessary to succeed. Even residents who oppose testing on the grounds that it can stifle student creativity in learning rarely opt out.

Not only is the testing there, but students today are expected to perform a broad spectrum of tasks of equal or greater measure. Today’s college-bound graduates must master languages, sports, AP classes and more. In his speech on Tuesday, Fox Lane High School Principal Joel Adelberg pointed to five National Merit Scholarship Commended Students and two National Merit Scholarship Winners. More than one-third of graduates, 106 of them, are graduating with honors. He cited achievements from the Academic Challenge team, Model Congress and Science Research program.

No student can go through high school without making a significant commitment to public service, whether giving their time to those in need at the Community Center of Northern Westchester, helping to build homes with Habitat for Humanity, or serving to help victims of storms, fires and earthquakes, sometimes around the world. Students are traveling throughout Europe and to China, now fostering Fox Lane’s sister schools. The high school offers 80 clubs.

These are not meager achievements but rather national honors of well-deserved pride. John Jay and Fox Lane students enter national science competitions that would challenge a Ph.D. candidate, create short films and videos that would make an Oscar-winner proud and master musical passages worthy of a Caramoor soloist. Athletes are provided training in sports from the age of 2, from youth soccer leagues to lacrosse, baseball and football camps. To win a scholarship and compete against the region’s top teams requires a level of sports commitment equal to any high-caliber athlete, with after-school drills, early-morning workouts and private trainers. The depth and breadth of their experience at 17 is sometimes staggering.

Then there’s the added social pressure of new media, from Tumbler and Twitter to LinkedIn, Facebook and the Next Big Thing. The new world of social media and the sense that it could be a determining factor in future life decisions add even more layers to a teenager’s daily life.

To all this comes the complexities of a dangerous and threatening world. This generation lived through Columbine; Aurora, Colo.; and Newtown, Conn. They lived through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, participated in the DARE and antibullying programs, learned how to “eat right” and avoid junk food, and were taught to value tolerance and respect their fellow students. They were advised and tutored and analyzed and mentored, told which college essays would work and which would be considered flat or clichéd. They bought the “Best Colleges in the U.S.” and were coached by professionals.

Today they sit on a perilous perch, with a military at ready because of new threats in the Middle East, Russia and the Ukraine. They see our world at risk because of foul air, contaminated water supplies and global warming.

For these students, our graduates, perhaps testing is the least of their concerns. Their achievement stands out because of the barrage of outside pressures, this sense of urgency we all face. The butterfly effect is real: The very connectedness of our planet is both a hope and a responsibility for our young students and our future leaders.

With great respect and admiration we recognize the hard work and assiduous study, the many hours in classrooms and on playing fields, and the important relationships with friends, families and teachers, which have brought their academic lives thus far to fruition.

We congratulate the class of 2014. You have passed the test with flying colors.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Bedford Village

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  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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