Wednesday, July 2, 2025

Welcome to Education Matters

Welcome to Education Matters the official blog of  Dr. Anael Alston, Superintendent of Schools for the Hamilton Central School DistrictIn this area of the website, I discuss a variety of educational matters and concerns and provide information that I hope will be helpful to the Hamilton staff, parents, students, and community members. To suggest topics, please email me at

 I look forward to hearing from you!

Anael Alston, Ed.D.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What do Globally Competent Students Look Like?

by David Young, CEO, VIF International Education

All of our futures are increasingly linked to the challenges of the global community. The world’s population is predicted to grow from our current 7.3 billion to 8.5 billion in 2030 and to nearly 10 billion by 2050. Such population growth will affect a host of global issues including pollution, disease management, and depletion of energy, food and water resources. 

Click below for the entire article.

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 8, 2016 Fire Alarm

Good morning,
The fire alarm went off at today at HCS because of burnt toast. We did a full evacuation as per regulation and all is well. 

Your Partner in Education,

Dr. A

Friday, June 3, 2016

Water Testing Update 6.3.16


     Dear HCS Community,

     A&P Water Testing was here on May 25th to collect water samples to test for lead. We expect the results within a month. 

     Your Partner in Education,
     Dr. A

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thank You For Your Support

Dear HCS Community,

As I reflect in gratitude on the week, I am moved to commit my thoughts to writing and share them with you.

On behalf of the entire faculty, staff and students of 
HCS, THANK YOU for your overwhelming support of our school budget. With 80% of this community voting “yes” on our investment in children, you sent a strong message of support. As the instructional leader of this fine district, I assure you that we will continually add value to the lives of the children and young adults that you entrust us with at HCS.

Also, I would like to congratulate incoming Board of Education members Ms. Michelle Jacobsen and Mr. Paul Lehmann. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Bud Ballinger for his years of volunteer leadership and service to the Hamilton Board of Education.

Your Partner in Education,

Dr. Anael Alston
Superintendent of Schools

Thursday, May 12, 2016

18 Examples of Teamwork at HCS

Dear HCS Community,

As we approach the HCS budget vote on May 17th, I thought it might be a good time to share my thoughts on the responsibility of leaders to add value. The range of responsibilities from Board of Education to substitute evening cleaner requires a level of leadership. It is my firm belief that effective leaders add value. That is one of our primary responsibilities. Below are some of the accomplishments that the leadership of HCS (inclusive of all employees) has accomplished since July 2015.

1.     We have carefully adjusted staffing levels to save the District nearly $50,000 in salaries.
2.     We were able to secure 50 reconditioned laptop computers from Comp4Kids for students HCS.
3.     We have created a coding club at the elementary school by partnering with the computer science department at Colgate University.
4.     We have worked with Onondaga Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, the HTA, and increased the number of dual enrollment college courses at HCS by 100%! This fall a student has the ability to graduate HCS with 30 college credits from our SUNY system. This does not include the options that Colgate University offers our students.
5.     We have maximized professional development opportunities for staff by bringing in Columbia University as partners in our literacy efforts. We literally have some of the nation’s BEST professional developers in literacy working with professionals and students at HCS!
6.     We have completely restructured our website to provide more information and make it easier to use. Since late August, we have had over 34,000 visits to the main web page and nearly 50,000 total page views. Remember, there are less than 600 students at HCS!
7.     We have worked with HCS administration and the guidance department to create a plan that has the entire school schedule on or about June 1, 2016. This will save us money over the next budget cycle.
8.     We are piloting NWEA online testing as a universal screener for students in RtI where applicable and needed.
9.     We are creating a district-wide structure and procedure for accepting non-resident special education students that includes the building principal, CSE Chair, business manager and the superintendents from both districts.
10.  Beginning Fall 2016, HCS students who take French 201 and 202 with Ms. Pietsch will receive three college credits through MVCC (per course) at no cost. For your information, French 201 is the first half of French 4 and French 202 is the second semester of French 4.
11. We have worked with the appropriate stakeholders to review and adjust BOE Policy on retention.
12. We have created a clear Communication Guide to assist parents in getting timely and important information and posted it on the website.
13. Worked collaboratively with the Director of Facilities to reseed the grass and correct safety issues on the front lawn.
14. The HCS Guidance staff has completed a Program Assessment Survey. The results of that survey will serve as the basis for changes made in that department.
15. We have worked collaboratively with HCS administrative team and the BOE to save the District money on healthcare costs.
16. Worked collaboratively with HTA President to increase the daily meal reimbursement when the District asks HCS teachers to attend conferences in NYC. This eases the financial burden on teachers when we ask them to attend training in NYC.
17. We have worked with the guidance department and secondary leadership team to implement a pilot online credit recovery program next fall.
18. We have made special outreach and connection with our community partners at Madison Lane Apartments.

As we continue to move forward, my pledge to this community is to have a steadfast focus on adding value to this beloved school. I hope the evidence provided above is indicative of the trend we are on.  Teamwork makes the dream work. Remember to VOTE on May 17th.


Your Partner in Education,

Dr. A
Superintendent of Schools

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Missing the Mark: The Misguided Use of Test Scores In Teacher/Principal Evaluations

This winter, the New York Board of Regents, the board that provides oversight and direction to public education in New York State, placed a four-year moratorium on using standardized achievement test scores as a significant part of teacher evaluations. Many see this as a victory, but I see it as a political punt. Unfortunately, the landscape of public education has evolved into a well-scripted episode of House of Cards. Elected officials are running for political cover. The Governor has heeded the recommendations of the Common Core Task Force, while the Board of Regents has taken measures to slow down the implementation of the latest version of teacher/principal evaluations. These steps will lead to positive outcomes if ultimately education law 3012-d, the law that mandates that 50% of teachers and principals annual evaluation are based on state test scores and observations, is repealed or revised. What I find most onerous about education law 3012-d is the increase of the use of state exam scores from 20% to 50% of teacher or principal’s evaluations.

Let me be clear, I am opposed to 50% of teacher and principal evaluations being linked to standardized test scores because it is not based on sound research. The State exams themselves seem to lack validity. In addition, the motivation to tie teacher/principals evaluations to student assessments is only a part of a larger reform movement to improve education. But they are the wrong drivers to improve the system. If the goal is to improve education in America the way countries like Singapore, Poland and Iceland have transformed their educational systems, we are choosing the wrong drivers. 

For the most part, educational professionals have been upset with linking teacher and principal evaluations to test scores for a variety of reasons. Some of the more popular reasons include:
1.    Using exams as a significant part of a teacher/principal evaluation minimizes the “art” and professionalism of teaching
2.    Using test results to show that are teachers are not doing a good job is a preemptive move by some government officials to privatize public education by limiting “teacher rights” under the tenure laws
3.    Limiting teacher evaluation to students’ performance on a test is only one of many factors that contribute to student achievement
4.    A state test is only a snap shot of how a student is doing on any given day 

Although I am unified with my professional colleagues and parents who think it is misguided to rate teachers based on test scores, my rationale is somewhat different. My position is that rating teachers based on test scores is antithetical to core educational goal of Teaching for Understanding.  

District leaders have been distracted with the advent of education law 3012-d to make 50% of teacher evaluations based on test scores. We’ve been asked to make something work that we don’t believe works and is dismissive to what we do know. Every New York State school district spent tens of thousands of dollars to train teachers and supervisors on how to make this work, knowing that we could have better used those resources to improve teaching and leadership skills, and provide additional supports for kids who need them.  This directive was bad policy. Opposition to this bad policy united teachers, parents, school, and district leaders. We did not like education law 3012-c, which required 20% of teacher evaluations to be tied to test scores, but many educators thought that they would tolerate this misguided directive which left 80% of teacher evaluations to be guided by professional practice. We believed that we could somehow make this work because it left the door open for us to teach with purpose: Teaching for Understanding.

I spent countless hours as part of my graduate studies studying the art, the process, requisite relationships and underlying principles of teaching and learning.  While I was a building principal, I had the rare opportunity to work with a superintendent who was instructional leader, who had a deep background in curriculum design and development, Dr. Larry Aronstein. Larry emphasized the importance of teaching for understanding and implemented practices that brought it to fruition as part of the long-term strategy to transform a high-poverty, low achieving urban-suburban school district on Long Island. State and national awards were heaped upon our former district for the dramatic turnaround over a five-year period. Although few ever asked how we accomplished this, teaching for understanding was the key driver. Teaching for understanding is what is missing in the dialogue on education reform in New York and dare I say, across America.

It must be noted that teaching and learning is a precursor to teaching for student understanding. Obviously, acquiring new knowledge and skill are basic to learning. We want students to be knowledgeable in all the subject areas. We want students to be skillful in math, the crafting of writing, and the effective use of foreign languages including the dominant and emerging languages of technology. So we provide lots of time and effort to teaching knowledge and skills. Understanding does not mean just memorizing or recognizing something. A student can recite endless facts and demonstrate routine skills with very little understanding. Understanding is more nuanced. So why do we pursue understanding?

          Memorizing pieces of knowledge and repetitively and mechanically performing a skill alone do not guarantee understanding. Knowledge and skills cannot be acquired without understanding the underlying concepts of the topic and when to use them. This is one area where the Common Core math developers got it right. Ensuring that teaching math is taught at the conceptual level before we emphasize the procedural, better positions our students to have the requisite understandings to pursue higher level mathematics. Employers tell us that they find it difficult to find candidates who possess the prerequisite skills to fill engineering and technology jobs. These job opportunities are expected to grow exponentially in the near future. Therefore, knowledge and skills that are not understood do little good. Rote knowledge defies active use, and routine skills (eg. invert and multiply; find the common denominator) are often of poor service because students do not understand when to use them. In short, we must teach for understanding in order to realize the long-term payoffs. Demonstrating deep understanding is not adequately evaluated when you use one exam a year as the instrument to determine mastery.

I believe that I’ve now made sound, cogent, and rational arguments as to why linking 50% of teacher and principal evaluations to a student assessment program are short sighted and ill-conceived. We’ve got four years to convince our elected officials that it is not a good idea. As professional educators, we must play both the long and short game of the educative process. The current law, 3012-d is short sighted and limited to the short game.