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New courses, changes to schedule open doors for higher achievement in Cohoes classrooms

Science teachers prepare with professional development in biotechnology, project-based learning

February 4, 2016—Course registration for the 2016-17 school year started this week at Cohoes High School, and students and their parents can expect to see a number of positive changes in the courses offered at each grade level. The changes, geared toward expanding access to a variety of courses, are a first step in immersing all students in rigorous academic coursework to promote curiosity, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking –all skills students need to be ready for success upon graduation. Two teachers complete micro pippetting lab work

While changes have been made in all core areas of study, perhaps the most significant changes come in the area of science.

Next year, for the first time ever, Cohoes High School will offer Advanced Placement (AP) biology to students. Earning college credit while in high school provides Cohoes students with greater opportunities to enter college ahead of their peers. They’re poised to succeed—arriving on campus equipped with the knowledge and discipline to excel in a highly challenging environment.

Successfully completing an AP course and then passing the exam also relieves the financial burden associated with earning college credit. While students are required to pay the AP exam fee (under $100), this is a cost savings compared to paying several hundred dollars for the same course at a college or university.

District and school administrators also examined the science Regents courses and made considerable changes to the sequence students take high school science classes. Beginning in 2016, incoming ninth graders will no longer take earth science as their first science Regents class. Now, they will take living environment in ninth grade, and then take earth science in tenth grade. The switch will improve student achievement as living environment provides a more manageable introduction to Regents coursework in science.

In addition, next year’s eighth grade accelerated science students at Cohoes Middle School will enroll in a living environment honors class. These students will take the living environment Regents at the end of eighth grade and enroll in earth science at the high school the following year. This projected path will allow for greater freedom of course selection in the students’ junior and senior years—i.e. opportunities for AP, dual credit, or highly specialized elective courses in science.


Cohoes High School science teachers preparing for the changes

A science teacher completes lab work as a part of professional developmentOn Tuesday, January 26, the living environment teachers traveled to Averill Park for a daylong, intensive, hands-on professional development day on biotechnology. The five teachers engaged in lab work—transforming bacteria, completing a micro pipetting lab, and a gel electrophoresis lab. The lab work they completed is part of the curriculum at Cohoes High School, and is a large part of the Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) science program. Peter Shaffer, head of the science department at Hudson Valley, also came to address the group about HVCC’s two-year certificate program in biotech, in which 90 percent of graduates are hired upon completion.

The group will also begin professional development in project-based learning—where students gain valuable knowledge and problem-solving skills by investigating or responding to a complex question, problem or challenge for an extended period of time. This type of learning promotes deeper understanding of the content being studied.

“Our goal is to prepare our students so they are future-ready with the knowledge and skills to succeed in jobs that don’t yet exist,” stated Superintendent Jennifer Spring, Ed.D. “We’re challenging our teachers and challenging our students to join us in building a culture of high expectations here in Cohoes.”


The mission of the Cohoes City School District is to prepare today’s students for success in tomorrow’s world.