Going Above & Beyond at PHHS

Going Above & Beyond at PHHS

Jackson Cianciulli, Editor-in-Chief

On Monday night, the documentary Beyond Measure was played at Pascack Valley for an audience of students, faculty members, and parents from across the county. The film shows a variety of school systems from around the country evolving to make the schooling experience better for students, who can better comprehend information, and teachers, who can become more involved with students. Although these school districts, ranging from elementary to college-level, are from across the nation, the film’s theme of continuous innovation in the classroom resonates strongly with the administration of Pascack Hills, who work day in and day out to go the extra mile and show that Cowboy Country is the best it can possibly be.

The documentary focuses on a handful of school districts and the major obstacles they have to overcome. In High Tech High School’s case, the film focuses on a newly founded San Diego public school with unorthodox teaching techniques and school format that shares their innovative success with other districts looking to improve. The film shows the perspective of students and teachers alike, both working strongly to change their school’s conditions for the better.

One ‘storyline’ that piqued my interest was about a Seattle-based public high school that successfully protested the state test. Although the PV district did see a 50% opt-out rate of last year’s PARCC exam, this was the result of student, not teacher protest. What differed in the Seattle High School was that there, the teachers led the charge, arguing that students weren’t retaining any information and were wasting valuable class time on preparing for an exam that would prove meaningless in their post-school lives.

Across the country in the suburbs of Massachusetts is where a soon-to-be Oxford University student founded a revolutionary program in his high school. Sick of students not being challenged and reaching their potential, he proposed an independent program be offered as an alternative to the routine, 8-period, lecture-based classes that he believed students were restricted in. In this independent program, students focused on one area of study – similar to a major in college – and incorporated general education requirements in various projects.

As superintendent Erik Gundersen said before presenting the film to the audience, we’re an extremely innovative district and we continue to improve year after year in that field. However, as this film perfectly displays, there’s always room for improvement, and I’m looking forward to how the district evolves, mirroring some things shown in various schools in the movie – but adding our signature #CowboyCrazy twist to it.