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New APPR data viewed with skepticism

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The long-awaited district-by-district results for teachers and principals under New York’s new Annual Professional Performance Review evaluation program are out! And the results are …

“Shaky, at best,” suggested veteran school superintendent John Yagielski, currently the interim superintendent in the Schenectady suburb of Niskayuna.

“Right now, at best, the jury’s out,” said Superintendent Jack Bierwirth of the Herricks school district on Long Island.

“I think we need a few years under our belts before we’ll know,” Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent Charles Dedrick told On Board. “We have a new system here, and we’re still learning how to use it.”

Let’s get disruptive

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

Have you ever Googled something and later noticed advertisements for that same or similar items pop up as you navigate the web – days, weeks, even months later?

It’s a constant reminder that we live in a hyper-connected, digital world. Like it or not, almost everything that we do on the web – from searches to tweets to emails to personal purchases – is measured, tracked, saved or mined for data to be used in ways we may never know by people whom we might never meet. Remember that not-so-flattering photo of you that your sister posted on Facebook? How about that video of you at your friend’s Las Vegas bachelor party? Guess what? It didn’t stay in Vegas. It now resides somewhere on a server, permanently.

We live in the age of digitized data. Its importance in our lives is unprecedented and evolving.

In education, we are measuring and monitoring students in a growing number of ways. Look at the plethora of web-based applications, social networks, mobile apps and other tech tools devoted to learning, assessment and record-keeping.

Regents approve new requirements to serve English language learners

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Eric D. Randall

In what state education officials have called a trailblazing change, the Board of Regents have approved new requirements that enumerate the obligations of districts to serve English language learners (ELLs), effective in the 2015-16 school year.

A new 36-page section of Part 154 of commissioner’s regulations approved by the Regents includes four and half pages of school district reporting requirements. This includes annually filing a count of ELLs in every school building, broken down by grade level, home language and whether they are in a bilingual or other program as well having a comprehensive plan to identify and serve ELLs.

Over the past 10 years, New York State’s ELL student enrollment has increased by 20 percent, according to the State Education Department (SED). More than 230,000 ELLs make up 8.9 percent of the total public student population. They speak 140 languages, with 61.5 percent of ELL students having Spanish as their home language.

Regents continue work on paths to diploma

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Eric D. Randall

In a second phase of the state Board of Regent’s exploration of creating alternative pathways to a high school diplomas, an advisory Blue Ribbon Commission on Arts Assessment will consider ways that students may be tested or otherwise evaluated to get academic credit for their abilities in dance, music, theater and visual arts.

The assessments must provide “credible evidence” that the student is college- and career-ready. Also, they must include academic criteria as well as judgments of technical learning and performance.

ERS rates to fall

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

School districts will pay 18.2 percent of employee payroll to the state Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) in 2015-16, down from 20.1 percent in 2014-15, the state comptroller’s office announced. ERS covers non-instructional school district employees such as food service workers, custodians and secretaries.

The ERS actuary calculates employer contribution rates using multiyear projections of the fund’s investment returns, employee salary growth, employee retirement or withdrawal rates and other factors.

Contributions to ERS are collected each February. Because the rate will decrease, school districts will not be allowed to exempt any expenditures for ERS payments from their tax levy limits in 2015 under the provisions of the tax cap law.

The Reform Agenda: Stay the course

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By James O. Jackson

In the 16th century, the great Italian political philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “…there is nothing more difficult to manage, or more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle than …” What?

Answer: “... to take the lead in introducing a new order of things.”

The wisdom of this observation is abundantly clear to anyone familiar with school reform today. We are witnessing second-guessing of the Regents Reform Agenda and New York’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which I fully support, based on what I’ve learned over 46 years as a science teacher, science department supervisor, principal and a member of the New York State Board of Regents.

I have empathy and respect for Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and the Board of Regents, who have led our state’s program of reform. As Machiavelli wrote, the innovator is likely to have enemies among “all those who are doing well under the old order.” The innovator’s supporters are likely to be “lukewarm” – due, in part, to “the incredulity of men who do not truly believe in new things until they have had a solid experience of them.”

Julie Marlette named director of NYSSBA advocacy team

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Jeffrey S. Handelman
Deputy Director of Administration

Julie M. Marlette will succeed David A. Little as NYSSBA’s director of governmental relations, Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer announced.

Little plans to retire from NYSSBA on Oct. 30 after 15 years. He will become executive director of the Rural Schools Association of New York State in November.

Marlette has served as NYSSBA’s deputy director of governmental relations since October 2013. A “boomerang” employee, Marlette previously served as a governmental relations representative for NYSSBA.

Marlette left NYSSBA in 2009 to work for the state Senate, where she was senior analyst for elementary and secondary education in the Office of Counsel and Program. 


Under tax cap, PILOTs pose new financial perils

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) have often been a source of confusion and consternation for school boards. New York’s property tax cap is adding to that angst in some communities.

PILOTs are one of the main tools local Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) use to encourage businesses to locate in their jurisdictions. Under such an agreement, a company makes some fixed yearly contribution to a municipality or school system rather than pay property taxes. The amount paid is typically lower than what the company would have paid if it was taxed normally.

School officials and other local governmental officials have no role in negotiating the terms of PILOTs, which can lead to disputes and even lawsuits among governmental bodies, developers and IDAs.

Professional review deemed appropriate in immunization exemption request

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Adam C. Hover
Associate Counsel

Issues regarding student immunizations often arise at the beginning of the school year. Parents can seek immunization exemptions if they hold a genuine and sincere religious belief contrary to immunization. An exemption is also possible if a licensed physician certifies that immunization may be detrimental to a child’s health.

In Appeal of a Student with a Disability, the second kind of exemption was at issue. Petitioner sought exemptions from the “MMR” and “Tdap” vaccines for her 12-year-old child. Petitioner submitted an exemption form authored by the child’s pediatrician stating, in part, that due to a prior “acute life threatening event” following a measles vaccine in 2003, the required vaccines may be “detrimental” to the child’s health.

However, a review by the district’s medical specialist, Dr. Palevesky, turned up disparities between the timeline given by the child’s pediatrician and the child’s immunization records.

Commissioner declines to say whether districts can require students to testify about bullying

On Board Online • September 22, 2014

By Adam C. Hover
Associate Counsel

In the Appeal of C.B., the commissioner was asked, among other things, to declare that children who are alleged to have been being bullied are not required to provide testimony or otherwise participate in investigations conducted in accordance with the Dignity for All Students Act.

While the appeal was dismissed on procedural grounds, the commissioner stated that he does not “issue advisory opinions or declaratory rulings” in appeals pursuant to Education Law section 310.

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