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SED to combine safety reporting systems to focus on healthiness of school climate

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The Board of Regents has endorsed a plan to consolidate and revise safety reporting requirements for schools, merging two separate incident reporting systems into one that also would focus on the quality of a school’s overall “climate.”

Under the proposal from the state’s Safe Schools Task Force, a single comprehensive data reporting system would track data now collected separately for the Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) system and the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).

Under VADIR, schools are required to record and submit information on violent and disruptive incidents and maintain a record of each incident. DASA requires that schools collect and record material incidents of discrimination and/or harassment. Both reports are submitted to the State Education Department (SED), though the deadlines differ.

The new system would streamline incident reporting and also track “key indicators for positive school climate.”

District’s collaborative culture eases common pains with Common Core

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By George Basler
Special Correspondent

While many New York students were feeling stress about math assessments tied to the Common Care standards, some were singing about it.

Students in Dorenda Johnson’s fifth grade class in the Unadilla Valley Central School District rewrote the lyrics to the popular song “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen and turned it into “Test Me Maybe,” complete with a choreographed dance number. The exercise was one small step taken in the Chenango County school district to ease the transition to the controversial educational initiative.

Unadilla, a rural “high needs” district with just 848 students, has won plaudits from State Education Department officials for its work on the Common Core. But district officials emphasize that the new standards didn’t make them change their ways. They credited collaborative strategies in place since the 2007-08 school year for smoothing implementation.

What can we learn from graduation rates?

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Lynne L. Lenhardt
NYSSBA President

The State Education Department recently released graduation rates. No doubt they will add to the ongoing debate about public education. As school board members, we have to derive as much meaning as we can from data, then move forward.

The graduation rates are a mixed bag. While there were some encouraging signs – the rates revealed slight progress in the percentage of students graduating statewide, as well as an overall upward trend – our schools still continue to experience persistent achievement gaps based on race and ethnicity, as well as school district wealth.

Overall, the statewide graduation rate for students who entered high school in 2009 was 74.9 percent. So, about three-quarters of students are graduating on time after four years.

Nine districts win state grants to lengthen school day, year

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Nine school districts will lengthen their school days next year – and, in some cases, add full days or weeks to their academic calendars – with support from $24 million in new state grants.

The Extended Learning Time initiative, which enables each of the selected districts to add hundreds of hours of instructional time for students in particular schools, is one of several competitive grant programs touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his 2013 State of the State address and approved as part of the 2013-14 state budget.

The nine districts receiving the first grants were identified by the State Education Department this month following a request from On Board. In all, 26 districts vied for funding and 22 met the criteria for consideration, according to state officials.

U.S. Supreme Court leaves door open to more litigation on union fees

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Jay Worona
General Counsel

In a closely watched decision with potential implications for public employee unions thoroughout the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the First Amendment prohibits the collection of agency shop fees in the particular case of home health-care aides, also called personal assistants (PAs), in Illinois.

Agency shop fees are partial dues paid by individuals who, by virtue of their employment, are members of a collective bargaining unit but do not wish to join the union that represents members of the bargaining unit. The fees compensate the union for the benefits that the individuals receive when the union negotiates on behalf of all members of the bargaining unit.

Like New York, Illinois is among 26 states that require public-sector workers – including teachers and certain other school employees – to pay agency fees if they decline to join the union.

What does it mean to educate the whole child? Ulster BOCES’ writing workshop shows the way

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Dorothy Slattery
Area 9 Director

To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient; to the playground supervisor, a first baseman; to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic. At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists, but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them.

The above quotation comes from a report from a White House Conference on Children and Youth. Can you guess what year? It was 1930.

The idea that we ought to be educating the “whole child” is still with us today. While the phrase means different things to different people, one of the core ideas is that every student should be supported by qualified, caring adults who address the student as an individual learner with unique circumstances and challenges.

‘Uber’ due process: Why a California court upheld students’ challenge to tenure

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By Jay Worona
General Counsel

Editor’s Note: Two groups are challenging the constitutionality of New York’s tenure laws. The New York City Parents Union has filed a lawsuit, and another is planned by the Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit group led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown and staffed in part by attorneys at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm. Below, an analysis of a California case that inspired both groups.

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racially segregated schools to be unconstitutional, a California court has upheld a challenge to the constitutionality of five California statutes  affecting the tenure and seniority rights of teachers. In this case, entitled Vergara v. State of California, the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles found that the contested statutes violate the students’ fundamental rights to equality of education by adversely affecting the quality of education they are constitutionally entitled to receive by the state.

Affordable Care Act: New forms of relief in sight for 2015

On Board Online • July 21 2014

By New York State
Association of School Attorneys

As implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues, school districts and BOCES are grappling with its requirements. One priority involves avoiding penalties that the government can impose on employers that fail to offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees (which, in the case of school districts and BOCES, can include substitute teachers who are full-time equivalents).

Many questions on this topic have been addressed by the U.S. Department of Treasury in final regulations affecting the “employer shared responsibility” requirements under the ACA. These include new forms of “transition relief” – clarifications and adjustments that affect employers’ obligations during the initial year of ACA implementation. For instance, the ACA generally requires a large employer to offer coverage to its full-time employees and their dependents. However, if an employer has not offered dependent coverage to some or all full-time employees during the 2013 and 2014 plan years, then the employer will not be required to offer dependent coverage to those employees in the 2015 plan year. This transition relief is intended to provide employers sufficient time to expand their health plans to include dependent coverage.

Fiscal monitor appointed
King explains unusual action on East Ramapo

On Board Online • June 30 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr.’s decision to appoint a fiscal monitor to examine financial management of the East Ramapo school district stems from “a unique pattern of events that led us to intervene,” King said in an interview with On Board.

Following a recommendation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, King on June 11 appointed Hank Greenberg, a former state assistant attorney general who previously investigated state test security breaches for the State Education Department, to review the district’s fiscal affairs.

The next day, Ramapo Board President Yehuda Weissmandl sent a letter to King expressing “serious concerns about this deeply offensive action,” according to The Journal News newspaper. Weissmandl said the appointment of a monitor was “unnecessary and uncalled for.”

New analysis highlights teacher absenteeism in metro areas

On Board Online • June 30 2014

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

Efforts to increase K-12 student achievement often focus on reducing student absenteeism, especially in urban areas. But a new report says teacher absenteeism in big cities is just as troubling.

While teachers in 40 large U.S. big cities were in attendance roughly 94 percent of the time, 16 percent of teachers were “chronically absent,” defined as having 18 or more absences per year.

Sixteen percent of teachers had three or fewer absences per year (“excellent” attendance) while 40 percent had 4 to 10 absences (“moderate” attendance).

Research shows “a significant negative impact on student achievement in classrooms where the teacher is absent for 10 days,” according to the report, Roll Call: The Importance of Teacher Attendance, by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a pro-reform research group. In the 2012-13 school year, 24 out of 40 districts saw average teacher absences greater than this amount.

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