Located on the rim of New York City, Syosset is a favorite suburb of Manhattan's workforce. The district's long-term goal, of "giving every child the ability to do the best they can do," works. It offers more than 300 unique classes, such as "Forensics Science" and "Residential and Commercial Architecture," 120 athletic clubs and teams from soccer to swimming, and the chance to study in unique facilities around the district and in the Big Apple. Such opportunities have enriched students' learning experience by sending their test scores soaring: 99 percent of Syosset's 450-student class of 2006 graduated and enrolled in college. It also included eight National Merit Scholars, 29 Commended Scholars, and 251 AP Scholars, and scored in the 98th-99th percentiles on the SAT, making Syosset one of the top performing districts in the country.
Each of Syosset's three secondary schools has been recognized as "Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence" by the U.S. Department of Education. In 2002, the district won the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education award for the best arts program in the nation. And Ivy League schools keep an eye out for Syosset grads because a 98 at Syosset is far different from a 98 in another district, according to district spokeswoman Randi T. Sachs.
Syosset's technology was outdated when Superintendent Carole G. Hankin joined the district 18 years ago. She had computers installed in every district building and trained each teacher to use them. Now the district has begun investing in SMART Boards and "e-books"-computerized textbooks that can, for example, assist an English-speaking student learning Spanish or send a voice file of that student to his or her teacher for review.
Hankin's partnerships with organizations and higher education institutions in New York City provide Syosset students with creative locations for learning.
According to Sachs, some 18-25 students a year work for eight or more weeks between their junior and senior years for the Intel Science Talent Search Competition, of which Syosset has produced five finalists in five years. A relationship with Rockefeller University, an internationally renowned science research institute, allows students to observe scientists at work, and thus, students are granted mentorships with scientists to work on experiments.
Art and Science
Students travel to the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for classes, while the art museum also provides Syosset teachers with art training preparation to ensure students' visits are focused and useful.
The Metropolitan Opera sends opera singers to the district to teach the art form, and Columbia University's Bert Konowitz teaches improvisational music to instrumental and vocal high school students as a visiting professor.
In the high school's technology labs, students studying engineering may do so with CAD machines that assist in such classes as "Transportation Systems," and "Design and Drawing for Production."
The Geological and Ecological Research Facility (GERF), a 5,000-square-foot space in one of the high school courtyards, is a hands-on area for all high school students to study Earth science, marine biology, and ecology. With GERF's greenhouse and man-made pond, students can create and examine pond life, vegetation and animal life in a controlled environment-a think-outsidethe-school-building learning experience.
As an option to more complex science classes, an alternative like "Forensics Science" allows students to take an approach to science the crime-solving way, by examining DNA and the clues that comprise a crime scene with their teachers. It's taught at two levels: a basic high school level and for college credit as an AP science class in conjunction with Syracuse University. Jennifer Chase Esposito is a contributing editor based in Boston.