The students in the junior and senior high school at Elba Central have engaged in a rigorous program designed to qualify them for a 4+1 graduation pathway or a special stand-alone designation on their diploma upon graduation.
The Elba Central School District was selected to be a pilot school for the Seal of Civic Readiness program, which is a new initiative designed by the New York State Department of Education.
NYSED had already established the Seal of Biliteracy, which is awarded to students who demonstrate fluency in a second language, as determined by a series of benchmarks. Similarly, the Seal of Civic Readiness was designed to provide recognition to students who go above and beyond the standard graduation requirements in social studies, history, and service-learning.
Acceptance into the pilot program was granted to schools that demonstrated academic and civic learning opportunities robust enough to meet the program criteria.
Elba Central was selected as a pilot school in the fall after completing the application and selection process. Throughout the pilot period, the committee of educators met frequently to revise capstone projects, review the curriculum, design project-based learning, and refine teaching practices to align with the program. Additionally, the Elba committee met with other pilot schools in the Monroe 2 BOCES region to collaborate on promising practices in alignment with the goals of the Seal of Civic Readiness.
Members of the Elba Central School committee are Sean Bryant (ELA teacher); Mike Cintorino (social studies teacher); Laura Williams (social studies teacher and service-learning coordinator); Alison Riner (HS counselor), and Gretchen Rosales (Superintendent).
Rosales led the application process and credits the teachers for their willingness to critically evaluate their own teaching and to provide robust opportunities for students to engage in project-based learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“Our teachers have put in countless hours analyzing, revising, and reconceptualizing what they do in the classroom to reimagine education for today’s world," she said. "Students at Elba can critically apply social studies, history, and research skills to the issues that need to be addressed in their own communities. This is what education should look like.”
Working with Mrs. Williams, students in the middle school have engaged in the planning and implementation of projects designed to improve their school and community.
Students administered surveys to determine needs and then researched, planned, and implemented project-based learning activities to meet those needs.
Projects have included campus-wide clean-up activities; determining a need for community seating areas at the school (which included designing and building picnic tables), researching pet abandonment and securing donations to a local shelter; and implementing a composting program at the school in conjunction with Porter Farms, a local and organically managed farm in Elba.
The middle school students have even connected with the youngest children in the building; noting a need for some positivity, the 8th graders record kindergarteners reading happy messages.
Throughout the week, anyone can call in to hear the happy pre-recorded communications.
According to Laura Williams, service learning coordinator, “it became obvious that the skills needed to become civically engaged at all levels of adulthood have to be fostered and practiced at an earlier age. More important than executing a perfect service-learning project is their own reflection of what worked well, what didn’t work well, what obstacles were overcome, and what could be improved upon the next time. Watching these young adults practice reaching out to community members and following through with their plans is something they rarely get to practice in a traditional classroom setting.”
Christine Radez, an associate at the New York State Office of Curriculum and Instruction at the New York State Department of Education in Albany, congratulated Elba Central and stated, “On behalf of our Civic Readiness Task Force members, I extend gratitude for your efforts to support this important initiative. Our vision is that the Seal of Civic Readiness is available for all students across New York State in the future. The steps you have taken towards the development of a civic readiness program and student credential are advancing that goal.”