All posts by Mark Guterl

Congratulations FFA!

The Allentown FFA participated in the National FFA Convention and Expo October 27-October 31 in Louisville, Kentucky. We are pleased to announce the following results!

Milk Quality and Products CDE Team- placed Bronze as a team- members were required to evaluate various dairy products, including cheese and milk samples, as well as perform and evaluate laboratory results for a dairy operation.
Matthew Gold- Silver Individual 
Madison Lofgren- Silver Individual
Joanna Ricci- Silver Individual 
Meredith Dauphars- Bronze Individual 
Marketing Plan CDE Team- placed Bronze as a team- members were required to develop a marketing plan for a local business and then present their findings in a written and oral presentation.
Jeremy Posluszny
Aluxus Brown
Hall of States- the team developed a display to showcase New Jersey, including agricultural commodities and other highlights of the state. They presented their display in the Hall of States at the National FFA Career Expo.
Renee Stillwell
Mary McDermott
Morgan LoSacco 
National Chapter- the Allentown FFA was recognized on the national stage for being ranked as a 3-Star, Gold Chapter. This distinction is given to approximately 250 of the 7655 Chapters nationwide.
American FFA Degree- this is the highest degree awarded to members. This degree is awarded to members who have met eligibility requirements, including post-secondary activities, develop of a solid supervised agricultural experience, and was an active member of their local chapter.
Grayson Asprocolas (2014)
James Asprocolas (2013)
Jenna Pinhas (2014)
For information about the convention, visit The members represented Allentown High School very well! Thank you for your support throughout the year which enables our chapter to continue our success!


Finding the JOY!

As we begin the 2015-2016 school year, we are more than ecstatic about the potential that this school year brings to UFRSD. Our goal is to make this the best year ever in our district.

At our opening staff gathering for the entire district,  I spoke about the need for JOY in our classrooms. The overall message was based on a TED talk by Dean Shareski. We have so many things going on in education today that are measured, data focused,  and standardized, but what we mustn’t forget is the power of JOY in our classrooms. Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion refers to it as the “J-Factor.” Joyful classrooms help to facilitate harder working and higher achieving students. Teachers have the ability to bring JOY to our kids every day. As an example, look at what Robin Williams character does in Patch Adams:

As teachers, we will do whatever we can to share and pass on JOY to our kids with the very firm belief that JOY in classrooms only improves learning.

As we continue to talk about how we are improving our academic choices, the plan for expanding our 1:1 initiative, our focus on assessments and the strong desire to do whatever we can to support our students, we will remind ourselves of our goal to bring JOY to our kids throughout the year.

Looking forward to week 2 on Tuesday.


Good Luck Class of 2015

The student whispered, “You are the best Principal I could ever have.” An emotional moment for Mrs. Embley as she gave a good-bye hug to one remarkable senior. A moment, one of many moments, that truly demonstrates the love and care that exists within UFRSD.

As we venture into the summer months, these last few weeks of school are always (and have always been) a very emotional time for many. Teachers and administrators want to speak to as many students as possible to let them know that there will always be a place for our kids in the UFRSD…whenever they need us. Additionally, students are beginning to realize that middle school and high school don’t last forever.

I’m in awe seeing students that graduated from 8th grade four short years ago getting scholarships, sharing college acceptances, getting drafted by the Phillies and receiving academic awards. Notre Dame, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, The Naval Academy, TCNJ, Richmond…! I can’t believe they are already heading to college.

The reality is…we love our students. We are so proud of them, and we are immensely amazed at their accomplishments. As graduations get closer and closer, I hope they know how much they mean to us and how hopeful we are that they will continue to check in with us over the next few years. Most importantly, we expect them to be  successful AND happy.

Best of luck, Class of 2015. Carpe Diem.



UFRSD 1:1 Chromebook Pilot – Providing a new tool for learning –

It is with GREAT excitement that we share information about a new pilot initiative coming to 7th and 8th grade next year! All 7th and 8th grade students in the 2015-2016 school year will be getting a Chromebook. A Chromebook (laptop-type device with Chrome OS – Google Apps for Education)  is another tool for learning that students will be using inside of the classroom and at home – anytime, anywhere learning. Chromebooks offer many different opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate, create and provide immediate feedback.

On Wednesday,  JUNE 3rd at 7:00 p.m. in the Stone Bridge Middle School Auditorium, we will be hosting our 1 to 1 Night for next year’s 7th and 8th grade parents and students  (parents and students currently in 6th and 7th grade) . We are excited to share an abundance of information during this evening.

The agenda for the night includes:

  • What is a Chromebook?
  • What is the benefit of a 1:1 initiative?
  • Why Google?
  • What experience do we already have with Chromebooks?
  • What have/has our teachers / district done / will do to prepare?
  • As a parent, what is my role in a 1:1 initiative?
  • Will their be insurance on the Chromebook?
  • How and when will students be trained?
  • When will the Chromebooks be given to our students?
  • Questions from parents and/or students?

We hope to see you on June 3rd!

Daily PARCC Report

Performance Based Assessment (PBA) testing schedule with some reflection.

  • Monday, March 2nd – 8th grade – ELA – Of course, after all of our preparation, we have bad weather. With a delayed opening, we postponed day 1 of testing for our 8th graders. (see schedule below)
  • Tuesday, March 3rd – 7th grade – Math – Our first day of testing at SBMS went off without a hitch. Students and teachers were great. The feedback we got from students was, “It was OK.” Love middle schoolers.
  • Wednesday, March 4th – 4th grade – ELA / 8th grade – ELA – Today’s testing was successful. We had all schools testing at one time (AHS was doing their infrastructure practice). Besides a few minor tech glitches, we had a good day. 4th graders seemed at ease and 8th graders seemed to be just fine with the test. 
  • Thursday, March 5th – 4th grade – ELA/7th grade – Math  – Snow Day! 
  • Friday, March 6th – 4th grade – ELA (Postponed) / 8th grade – ELA – 8th grade testing went well today. The delayed opening didn’t mess up the schedule. Kids seemed to be comfortable and relaxed with the test. 
  • Monday, March 9th – 4th grade – ELA / 7th grade – Math – It’s been interesting to hear about the testing from teachers. There are lots of directions to follow and multiple things that teachers need to do, but, overall, it’s been going very well. Teachers have done a terrific job. Today’s testing went well. Only a few more days of testing left for our 4th, 7th and 8th graders!
  • Tuesday, March 10th – 4th grade – ELA  / 8th grade – Math – Both tests seemed to be a success today. Students seem to feel comfortable about testing online. I am amazed at the resiliency of students and teachers.
  • Wednesday, March 11th – 4th grade – Math  / 7th grade – ELA – The ELA sections of the test tend to take a little longer for kids. 4th grade started math today, which seemed to go off without a hitch. Our hope is that the period of time where kids became more familiar with the test helped students navigate the tools needed for the math section. ONE MORE DAY OF TESTING FOR 4th, 7th and 8th grade!!!
  • Thursday, March 12th – 4th grade – Math / 8th grade – Math Last day of testing for 4th and 8th grade!!!!!!!!! 
  • Friday, March 13th – 3rd grade – ELA / 7th grade – ELA – 8th grade took their last test today and 3rd grade started their first. All went well. As with any grade level start, there were a few minor glitches, but they were fixed and testing continued without delay.
  • Monday, March 16th – 3rd grade – ELA / 6th grade – ELA – The second day of 3rd grade testing and the first day of testing for our sixth graders. ELA tests seem to be shorter for the kids to complete. Besides some staggering times for beginning tests in 6th grade, all went on without a hitch.
  • Tuesday, March 17th – 3rd grade – ELA / 5th grade – ELA – First day of 5th grade testing and the last day of ELA for 3rd grade. Seems to be second nature now for our 3rd graders. 5th grade started off very well. 
  • Wednesday, March 18th – 3rd grade – Math / 6th grade – ELA – Today was the last day of ELA for 6th grade and the first math day for 3rd grade. Students seem to feel that the math test is a bit more challenging. This information is gathered solely from asking kids about their experience of an online test. 
  • Thursday, March 19th – 3rd grade – Math / 5th grade – ELA – Today was the final day of testing for NES (there are still make-ups taking place). NES and SBMS are excited about the PBA coming to an end. One student even shared with Ms. Negro that they “like PARCC better than the NJ ASK.” 
  • Friday, March 20th – 6th grade – Math – Only one full grade level, 6th grade, was testing today in Math. A few make-ups were given at each school. Things went smoothly with no disruptions. Testing starts at AHS on Monday!
  • Monday, March 23rd – 5th grade – Math / 9th grade – ELA – The high school is off and running with PARCC. As each first day brings, some minor glitches were fixed within minutes. After they were resolved, the testing went very well. 6th and 5th grade have one day left of testing!
  • Tuesday, March 24th – 6th grade – Math / 9th grade – ELA
  • Wednesday, March 25th – 5th grade – Math / AHS – Algebra I
  • Thursday, March 26th – AHS – 10th grade – ELA
  • Friday, March 27th – AHS – 10th grade – ELA
  • Wednesday, April 15th – AHS – Geometry
  • Thursday, April 16th – AHS – 11 grade – ELA
  • Friday, April 17th – AHS – 11 grade – ELA – Each of the days above including today were non-eventful. Students seem very well versed in the testing procedures, and seem to be focused on doing their best. One more day for the PBA.
  • Monday, April 20th – AHS – Algebra II

My thoughts about PARCC

I’ve never met anyone, educator or non-educator, who has said, “I love standardized testing!” or “I can’t wait to get those national assessments in front of our kids.” Standard assessments are not something that I get excited about. They became a federal mandate when NCLB started; NJ was even testing long before that. Testing is now a yearly ritual for schools and students, and the PARCC test has re-ignited the debate over standardized testing. Do I love testing? No…BUT…I always try to see the positive in things.

The fact remains that PARCC is here; it is a reality for our kids, parents and teachers. As an educator, I am not a promoter nor a detractor of PARCC. Simply put, PARCC testing will begin in a few short weeks, and we are all focused on doing whatever we can to make the experience as much of a stress-less one for kids and teachers.

Recently, I have responded to a few emails from parents about PARCC. I welcome those conversations. Dialogue is important, and I always look forward to informative discussions. I thought it would be good to share my thoughts on PARCC in an effort to inform, clarify, and, perhaps, offer a different lens to look through.

Perspective of an Educator

As an educator, I believe that testing, whether it is the PARCC or NJ ASK, has both positives and negatives attached to each test. Some may argue that we, our country, give tests (standardized) too often. I wouldn’t disagree with that. Any loss of instructional / learning time within the classroom is a detriment to students. I do, however, see the value that an assessment may give a district or a family in regards to data.

Data: I believe that the most important data we get about students is the day in/day out information we get from classrooms, from teachers. Our hope and belief is that the PARCC results will give us more data about students and what they know. This data can help focus our instructional and professional development needs and, most importantly, give parents and teachers a view of what we need to do to help our kids become college and career ready; I do see this as a positive to any standardized assessment. The data that districts received from the NJ ASK scores was not very thorough. We would get little information about students and where exactly they were thriving or needing support. We have been told that the data we will be getting from Pearson in relationship to PARCC will be a more thorough picture of how kids are doing on specific skills. More data is better. We will not create our entire instructional program for specific students based on PARCC data, but we will use the data to help provide a more thorough understanding of our students. If the data we get from PARCC is not as deep as they have said I would be GREATLY disappointed. Is this data the only information we need? Of course not. Standardized tests are just a snapshot – a one day image. We need multiple assessment strategies within our classrooms. These strategies only give us a clearer picture of how are kids are doing. Accompanied with data from the PARCC, we will have information from multiple sources that will only heighten our level of understanding of the academic needs/strengths of our students and programs. I do understand people’s concern about the over abundance of testing and the newness of PARCC, but I do believe that it is important to gain us much information about a student’s educational progress as possible.

Student Preparedness: The best way to prepare for any standardized testing is good teaching and higher level learning experiences for kids. PARCC is different from the NJ ASK. The obvious difference is that it is an online assessment. PARCC seeks to assess skills and knowledge like the NJ ASK, but it also requires students to critically think, find deeper meaning, analyze, and evaluate.

As we begin the first year of PARCC testing, we (like most districts) have spent time familiarizing students to the test, the test format and how to manipulate through the test. As students are more familiar with these elements the more comfortable they will be on testing days. The other way to prepare kids from a school’s standpoint is to ensure that our curriculum is rigorous, aligned with the Common Core and provides a vast amount of experiences to think critically, work through a problem, figure out why something does/doesn’t work, evaluate two texts and develop original thoughts and ideas from them, etc…

Making sure students are prepared is a huge focus for us. This focus is aligned with what we expect kids to be exposed to everyday in the UFRSD. I believe that our kids are just as ready as other districts, because of the outstanding work of our teachers and building administrators.

Learning from the Experience: I believe when the PARCC assessment is completed in June we will gain a great deal of information from the process. It is too early, in my opinion, to pass judgment on the test or whether the test is a worthy assessment of kids. Standardized assessments, in general, give us a “snapshot” of where they are academically. They are not the be all and end all of education; they are far from it. They do, however (as I mentioned earlier), give us data. Data that we hope will be beneficial to our students in the long run.

Teacher Evaluation: The topic of standardized assessments being used to measure teachers became a reality for us 2 years ago. For this school year, it will count 10% of their evaluation rating. Originally, it was 30%. Using standardized assessments for teacher rating is another conversation, which we probably wouldn’t disagree about.

Perspective of a Dad

If my daughters were of PARCC age, whether I agreed with PARCC or not, it would be an experience I would want them to have. Not because it would be life-changing or wonderful, but because it would be another experience that would help them grow. The stress of the test is a real concern. I understand that as a parent. I also know that as they get into high school and begin to take more assessments that impact their future. I believe, rightfully or wrongfully, that our kids will be seeing more “high-stakes” online assessments for college, professional certifications and other work-related requirements…the more exposure to these situations the more equipped they will be to handle them.

My only hope in writing this is that it will help to inform others about one person’s perspective. To sum things up…

  • I’m not a fan of standardized tests.
  • PARCC is here, so I have to work as hard as I can to make the experience better for kids.
  • Because PARCC is a reality, I am looking forward to seeing what data comes from it. Hopefully the data will be usable.

There are many other topics relating to PARCC, stay tuned. 🙂

PARCC INFORMATION SESSION for the COMMUNITY – Join us on Tuesday, February 24th @ 6:30 p.m. in the SBMS Aud. to hear from Newell Elementary School and Stone Bridge Middle School administration about PARCC. There will be time for questions afterwards.

Visit our PARCC Information Page at

Feel free to contact me with any thoughts or questions.

My best,

Mark Guterl

PARCC Update

With the first year of PARCC testing ready to begin in a few weeks, UFRSD will be hosting information nights for each of our schools.

  • On February 12th at 6:00 p.m. (prior to Back-to-School Night),  Allentown High School will be hosting a PARCC Information Session in the high school auditorium.
  • On February 17th at 6:30 p.m,  Newell Elementary School and Stone Bridge Middle School will be hosting a PARCC Information Session in the Stone Bridge Auditorium. 

Parents will also be able to access sample tests on each of these nights, if they would like to give the PARCC assessment a try.

Administrators will share some information about PARCC testing and answer questions that parents may have regarding testing.  We hope you can join us.