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Common Core emphasis on nonfiction rubs some educators the wrong way

On Board Online • November 24, 2014

By Paul Heiser

What should be the proper balance between fiction and nonfiction reading in English language arts? That's a hotly debated question now that the Common Core State Standards require a shift in emphasis from literacy to informational texts as students advance through grades.

The standards call for a 50-50 split between fiction and nonfiction texts in grade four. By grade eight, 55 percent of reading must focus on informational texts, increasing to 70 percent by grade 12. These guidelines apply to students' exposure to reading material during the entire school day and cover all subjects, not just ELA classes.

But there is a perception that the responsibility for making sure that students learn techniques to understand difficult texts and summarize key points will fall disproportionately on English teachers.

"The reality is that we only have ELA and math standards at this point, and we have testing tied to teacher evaluations," said Daniel Katz, an assistant professor of education at Seton Hall University and a former high school English teacher. "I think it is very clear that, for the foreseeable future, this is going to fall on the English teachers."

Statement on the State-Appointed Fiscal Monitor for the East Ramapo School District

FOR RELEASE:  November 20, 2014

CONTACT: David Albert
518-783-3716 or 518-320-2221
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards

We are reviewing the report and subsequent requests for legislative action made by the fiscal monitor. Clearly, something must be done to restore the community’s trust in the school district. We hope the parties involved can develop a solution that addresses the specific concerns raised in this report. NYSSBA stands willing to provide whatever assistance we can to ensure that happens as expeditiously as possible.

New York’s leading education groups outline need for $1.9 billion state aid increase in 2015-16

FOR RELEASE:  November 13, 2014

CONTACT: Al Marlin
(518) 783-3723 or (518) 527-6933 cell
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards

New York’s major statewide education organizations issued a report today outlining the need for a $1.9 billion state aid increase for schools in the upcoming state budget to continue current services and make progress on a number of critical new initiatives.

The organizations comprise the New York State Educational Conference Board (ECB), and together represent parents, classroom teachers, school-related professionals, school business officials, school building and program administrators, superintendents and school boards.

The ECB report is titled “Turning the Corner: With an improved fiscal condition, New York can lead the way for sustainable educational progress.” It cites the state’s improved fiscal outlook, aided by recent financial settlements, in advocating for investments in education.

The report comes after a period of years in which state aid has been reduced, flat, or otherwise inadequate to help schools continue essential services while also adapting to state-mandated education reforms. A little more than $1 billion in state funding remains withheld from schools through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), and phase-in of the state’s Foundation Aid formula has been stalled since 2008-09.


Florence Johnson named 2014 President’s Award recipient

FOR RELEASE:  November 7, 2014

CONTACT: Al Marlin
(518) 783-3723 or (518) 527-6933 cell
On Twitter: @nyschoolboards

Florence Johnson, who recently retired from the Buffalo Board of Education, has been awarded the 2014 President’s Award by the New York State School Boards Association.

The President’s Award is the highest honor NYSSBA bestows on a person or entity that has had a significant positive impact on public education.

“Florence has put kids at the front and center of every decision she has made as a school board member,” said NYSSBA President Lynne Lenhardt. “I value her commitment to students and I value her compassion.”

For 20 years, Johnson served on the Buffalo Board of Education and was president from 2004 to 2007. She served on all standing committees of the board and has also served since 1993 as the Conference of Big 5 School Districts’ representative on the Commissioner’s Advisory Council of School Board Members.

NYSSBA delegates approve 10 resolutions

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Barbara Bradley
Deputy Director of Online Communications and Project Planning

Voting delegates to NYSSBA's 2014 Annual Business Meeting in New York City passed two of three Common Core-related resolutions after spirited debate.

They approved 10 resolutions and one bylaw change. One approved resolution called for aligning teacher certification exams with the Common Core. "Teacher certification exams should reflect the current learning standards our kids are being held accountable for," said Catherine Romano of Islip, who spoke in favor.

Another resolution that passed called for dedicated state funding for professional development related to the Common Core. While some delegates favored deleting the specific reference to Common Core, the assembly agreed to keep language to link professional development with the Common Core. Deleting "Common Core" would have made the resolution "too ambiguous," according to Bill Buchko of Gananda.

"It's easier to get funding for existing law," added Walter Denzler of Little Flower Special Act district.

Support appears lukewarm for Smart Schools Bond Act

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

New York voters soon will have their say on the Smart Schools Bond Act, which will appear on the statewide ballot Nov. 4 as Proposition 3. The proposal would authorize the state to borrow up to $2 billion for schools to buy electronic devices and equipment, expand broadband Internet access and build new classrooms to accommodate pre-kindergarten growth. The money could also be used for high-tech school security features or to replace classroom trailers.

The prospects for passage remain anybody's guess. While support for enhancing technology in schools - and the new educational connections and opportunities that could foster - remains hot, enthusiasm for the plan to fund such improvements with borrowed money has been closer to lukewarm.

"I've have not seen a lot of enthusiasm, nor have I seen a lot of negative concern," NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer told The Buffalo News. "I don't know why, but it just hasn't caught fire."

NYSSBA has taken no official position on the referendum. The state associations representing superintendents and principals have also taken no position, while New York State United Teachers supports passage.

At NYSSBA, democracy is alive and well

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA - Executive Director

The Annual Business Meeting is one of the most important events on NYSSBA's calendar. To hear members passionately debate important issues facing our public schools is invaluable to those who are charged with carrying your message forward during upcoming legislative sessions and in interactions with state education officials. To all delegates and the boards that sent you forth, thank you for your wisdom and your guidance.

I am hoping that the meeting that just concluded in New York City serves as a reminder about the value of NYSSBA's resolution process. The Annual Business Meeting is designed to be an event in which timely proposals are subject to well-informed, constructive debates. With or without amendment, resolutions are passed or rejected, and the results should provide direction for me and the NYSSBA staff.

Delegates tackled meaty issues such as earmarked funding for full-day kindergarten and pre-K programs, the use of BOCES' Regional Information Centers for student data storage, property tax cap relief for fiscally distressed districts, and professional development and teacher certification exams tied to implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards. Not one softball issue in the bunch.

NYS heading toward CTE pathways

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

After years of study, New York's Regents are moving to create a new array of "pathways" to high school graduation, including one that would feature rigorous CTE (Career and Technical Education) courses and exams.

The pathways plan, approved in principle by the Regents at their October board meeting, next will go out for public comment as part of the formal rule-making procedure before the board votes on finalizing it in January.

If the plan is approved, this year's seniors would be the first group eligible to take advantage of some of the new diploma options in time for graduation in June 2015.

In touting the expanded opportunities for students, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. stressed that students who choose CTE or other pathways still will need to master the math, literacy and reasoning abilities associated with Common Core standards.

Two Regents seats to be filled

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Staff Writer

The state Legislature will have two vacancies to fill on the state Board of Regents in its upcoming session. Geraldine Chapey of Queens has resigned after 16 years of service and Harry Phillips III of Westchester County, who has represented the lower Hudson Valley since 2000, plans to step down when he finishes his current five-year term on March 31.

"I feel great, but, at 88, I can only decline," Phillips told the Journal News of Poughkeepsie. "My wife is the same age and will need me at home. I'm human." Phillips announced his decision to retire in October.

Chapey has been absent from board meetings since March. The chancellor and the Board of Regents were notified of Chapey's retirement through a resignation letter dated June 5, according to State Education Department officials. No reason was cited.

A speech and language pathologist who served as academic dean in the School of Education and Human Services at CUNY, Chapey is a former New York City schools administrator and past president of School Board 27.

Leaders' panel resolute on Common Core

On Board Online • November 3, 2014

By Eric D. Randall

"You don't fatten a cow by weighing it." That was the metaphor that Harvard professor Paul Reville used during the Education Leaders' Roundtable to counter the claim that adoption of Common Core State Standards has created a flawed, test-centric educational culture.

Educational changes have nothing to do with making students better test-takers, said Reville, who chaired the Massachusetts State Board of Education and also served as the top education advisor to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Education reform is about instructional changes that offer teachers new strategies to help each child achieve a specific set of individualized goals drawn from a national set of standards, he said. "What I worry about is that, in the cacophony of the debate, we lose sight of strategies to educate students at higher levels."

Also voicing strong support for the Common Core at the session were Commissioner of Education John B. King Jr., Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

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