Sunday, July 27, 2008

AP Scores: MHA vs. The Nation

For the uninitiated, Advanced Placement Exams, or APs as they are known, are standardized culminating exams for college level courses given to advanced students in high schools across the country. They are graded on a scale of 1-5 with 3 representing a passing grade and a score of 4 or 5 often entitling the student to full college course credit once he or she matriculates at the university of his or her choice.

While we still have work to do in many areas, this year's results should engender significant pride in our students, our faculty, and our school community at large. Probably most impressive amongst this year's results are those from our two AP Psychology sections. All five of the girls in our Girls' School section scored a perfect 5 on the exam. Of the four boys in our Boys' School section, one scored a 5 and the other three received a 4. As the table demonstrates, these results far exceed the average results of comparable AP Psychology courses in other American high schools.

While only three students in our high schools took the AP Exam in English Language this year, their results were similarly impressive and similarly bested the national averages.
Our AP European History scores were slightly closer to the national average, but in the typical AP Euro course only 65.9% of exam takers scored a 3 or above. In our high schools, 83% scored a 3 or better.
With a 3 and a 4 amongst our two AP Physics takers, only AP Economics had a distribution akin to that of the national average.

In all of the above there is room to improve, and this coming year's students will have AP Calculus and AP Biology added to the mix. Nonetheless, to this year's students and to this year's teachers we tip our hats and congratulate them for a job very well done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Virtual MHA Updates

Just a few updates on the growing presence of the Academy in cyberspace:

  • This blog currently has 81 subscribers and gets an average of 8 hits per day. A subscription simply means that you receive an email with each post soon after it goes up. If you, or someone you know, is not yet subscribed, simply type the email address in the box on the lower right hand side of the blog entitled "subscribe via email."
  • Our MHA / FYOS Alumni Group on Facebook currently has 98 members.
  • The YouTube video about our community made by students in our Boys High School has been watched 500 times at last check.

Spread the word and let's keep them all growing...

Please Read This

Today's Commercial Appeal ran an abbreviated story from the Associated Press on new rather sobering statistics regarding college drinking. The full version of the article can be found on the website of the Associated Press. The story makes reference to drinking games such as "beer pong," which is but one of many forms of alcohol related entertainment wildly popular on college campuses today. If you are not familiar with drinking games - and you have an adolescent child - please take a moment to educate yourself by reading this rather extensive Wikipedia article dedicated to the subject. If you're wondering just how prevalent these games are, do a Google Search for"drinking games" and browse through any of the 1,500,000 results.

One fact which was not emphasized in this article is that most students who develop drinking problems in college acquired their taste for alcohol in high school. This recent study published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2008, 3:6, sought to determine the relationship between parental supervision and college drinking. What it found, though, was that while parental supervision can be an important preventative factor in college age drinking, the most significant factor in determining whether a student will become a heavy drinker in college is whether or not they were drinking in high school. Here is an excerpt from their conclusions:

Research shows that college students who report that their parents have permissive attitudes about underage drinking and substance use are more likely to engage in these behaviors [57]. This is contrary to the belief that college binge drinkers are the ones who were prohibited drink in high school. In a blog on the Wall Street Journal website that was focused on an article about college parental notification guidelines of alcohol and drug use, comments such as this were posted,

"The only reason for college binge drinking is prohibition. Kids that binge drink in college are the same ones that were raised by 'responsible' parents who did not let their kids try a drop of alchohol (sic) at home.

Once kids get to college and away from parents' relatively frequent control they go on a rampage. Binge drinking can easily be resolved in late teenagehood by educating kids how to drink, what it means to drink a lot, and what hangover is [58]."

However, our study has shown that binge drinking in high school predicts college binge drinking. In addition, the CASA survey found that 70% of college students reported that their parents' concerns or expectations either somewhat or very much influenced whether or how much they drank, smoked, or used other drugs, and that parental attitudes were significantly related to the likelihood to binge drink, use marijuana, and smoke tobacco.

Did you know that if your high school age child drinks even somewhat regularly, there is a 1 in 4 chance that he or she will develop an alcohol dependency? If he or she is is under 15, the chances rise to almost 1 in 2. But, if they start to drink only after the age of 21, their chances fall to a mere 1 in 10. Here are a few more research based facts about underage drinking from a website called in the know zone:

  • A national survey reveals that 42% of college students reported binge drinking.
  • Over 60% of all injuries, vandalism, and problems with the police reported on college campuses are in frequent (weekly) binge drinkers.
  • By the time they graduate from high school, two-thirds of youth are regular drinkers, and two-fifths are frequent binge drinkers.
  • Binge drinking during high school, especially among males, is a strong predictor of binge drinking during college (among those who make it to college.)
  • Eight young people a day die in alcohol-related crashes.
  • Alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. It is a factor in the three leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds: accidents, homicides, and suicides.
  • Youth who drink are 7.5 times more likely to use other illicit drugs and 50 times more likely to use cocaine than young people who never drink.
  • One in eight college students reports injuries resulting from alcohol use.
  • Half of all binge drinkers miss at least one class per quarter or semester due to drinking.
  • More than one-third of binge drinkers report falling behind in their schoolwork due to drinking.
  • Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all academic problems.
  • Students with GPAs of D or F drink three times as much as those who earn A's.

Thankfully, underage drinking is not a widespread problem in our community. However, it does exist in certain circles and often with parental consent. The information above should be enough to motivate us all to rethink such policies and to work hard at eliminating underage drinking completely.

Tax Holiday

If you still have school shopping to do, don't forget about the upcoming Tennessee Tax Holiday. Friday August 1st through Sunday August 3rd all school supplies, clothing, and computers will be tax free. For more info visit

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Summer of Growth for the Academy

One of my first blog posts a little over a year ago (it's hard to believe that I've been blogging for over a year already!) referred readers to a post by a Mississippi teacher who noted that the quality of a school can often be judged by the manner in which its faculty and leadership spend their summers.
While downtime and pure relaxation is of the utmost importance, the summer also provides invaluable opportunities for teachers and administrators to pursue avenues of professional growth so that they return in the fall not only refreshed and re-energized, but equipped with new tools and excited by new knowledge with which they have been empowered through their summer learning experiences.

I noted then that a summer filled with faculty pursuing professional development opportunities as described by that educational blogger provided "portrait of educational excellence to which we can all aspire." I am proud to say that a year later we are well on our way. Here's just a taste of the growth opportunities our faculty and administration have been and will be pursuing this summer:

  • Our entire administrative team spent a day and half with Professor Scott Goldberg learning how to lead our faculty through our multi-year school-wide Differentiated Instruction initiative.

  • Rabbi Greenblatt and I attended the ASCD National Summer Conference to learn even more about the principles of Differentiated Instruction and currliculum building.

  • Erica Stoltz, my new assistant, attended ISM's Summer Workshop entitled "The Vital Role of the Head's Administrative Assistant."

  • Mrs. Gersten will soon be heading up to Cambridge, MA for the Harvard Principal Center's Summer Institute.

  • While Mrs. Gersten is in Cambridge, Rabbi Gersten will be in New York recieving training in the important work of the David Project, which equips students with the knowledge and skills to become active advocates for Israel on college campuses and beyond.

  • Mrs. Ashly Hood, our newly hired high school English and Spanish teacher, will be attending a workshop in the TPRS method of foreign language instruction (better known in our school, as the Mrs. Mansberg Method of Spanish instruction).

  • Mrs. Rachel Goldberg, our new 2nd Grade Judaic Studies will be attending training in the Tal Am curriculum and methodology in Jerusalem, taught by none other than our own Mrs. Yehudit Soleman, our new 3rd Grade Judaic Studies teacher and our faculty mentor for the Tal Am program.

  • Mrs. Charna Schubert, our new Early Childhood Director, will be attending classes on Early Childhood Directorship, through the Ready, Set, Grow Program at the University of Memphis.

  • Melissa and I, along with representatives of our lay leadership, will be attending Yeshiva University's ChampionsGate National Leadership Conference later this month.

And all of this is in addition to all of the work our administrators, and many of our teachers, are putting in on a daily basis to ensure that this coming school year represents an exciting and exhilarating step forward on our journey toward excellence.

I, for one, can't wait...