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SED to create Common Core Fellows program

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The State Education Department wants to borrow teachers from local school districts to craft a 2.0 version of the state’s Common Core-aligned model curriculum.

SED proposes to pay the salaries and benefits of the teachers while they spend next school year improving existing curriculum modules for math in grades K-12 and English language arts in grades 9-12.

The effort will be called the Common Core Institute, and participating teachers will be called Common Core Institute Fellows.

“We’re looking to find out if this is a model that works,” said Ken Wagner, deputy commissioner for curriculum, assessment and education technology. If so, it could
be used to develop curricular materials for other subjects.

Many details, including the estimated cost and the number of teachers to be involved, are yet to be determined. 

SED navigates new role in curriculum

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The state’s role in curriculum development is expanding.

Traditionally, New York has limited its involvement to establishing learning standards and producing “guides” and “frameworks” to assist with the local development of curriculum, noted Ken Wagner, deputy commissioner for curriculum, assessment and education technology at the State Education Department.

That began to change when New York adopted Common Core State Standards in 2010 and received a $700 million federal Race to the Top grant in 2011. The state used part of the federal grant to hire contractors that produced new Common Core-aligned curricular modules for math and English Language Arts. The modules were posted on and have been downloaded some 6.2 million times, according to Education Commissioner John B. King Jr.

“Prior to Race to the Top, there was no state-supported curriculum development in New York,” Wagner said. “That never existed in the history of this state.”

A way out? No, we need a way up

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Timothy G. Kremer

So I hope that all of us – administrators, educators, parents and unions – can lay down our swords – soften the rhetoric – put aside the politics — and come together for our children.  It is time to rebuild the trust and mutual respect required to collaborate at scale on something as complex as raising standards for teaching and learning.  – John B. King Jr., Commissioner of Education

The quotation above is one of the common-sense arguments made by Commissioner of Education John King in his speech shortly after the Representative Assembly of the New York State United Teachers voted to change its leadership and express “no confidence” in King. Many have characterized King’s speech as clear-eyed and constructive. I agree. You can read the text of his speech and judge for yourself; it’s on pages 8 and 9.

Initially, I was disappointed that school boards were not mentioned in his speech, which expresses a coherent vision of how we can improve public education through higher standards and accountability. But there is a simple explanation: school boards aren’t part of the problem. The commissioner knows that most school boards are committed to rigorous standards and accountability – for students, school staff and themselves.

UCLA’s Project Exc-EL

Federal grant to help two districts work with English language learners

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Merri Rosenberg
Special Correspondent

It’s hard to escape the seemingly intractable achievement gap – especially for the English language learner population, which persists in struggling with low high school graduation rates.

The Obama administration has set up a grant program that seeks solutions that work across district lines and includes the participation of community organizations and academic institutions. Two Westchester districts, Tarrytown and Ossining, were among the 25 successful applicants, out of a field of 618, to receive a five-year, $3 million grant, split between the two districts.

What impressed the federal funders? Hard to say, but it could be the target population. While many existing programs are designed for elementary school students, Tarrytown and Ossining will be focusing on middle and high school students.

Many of these students “have had interrupted schooling,” said Tarrytown Superintendent Christopher Clouet.

According to the United States census data, about a quarter of Westchester’s population is foreign-born, 32 percent speak a language other than English at home, and about 23 percent are Hispanic. In communities like Ossining and Tarrytown, the jobs that many of these Hispanic parents pursue are often low-paying, service sector jobs.

Master teacher list grows to 319

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

A second group of educators has been added to the ranks of New York’s Master Teacher Program, bringing the total number of local teachers elevated to the program to 319.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the selection of 215 additional teachers from throughout the state on April 14. With 104 others who were picked in October, they comprise the state’s inaugural “cohort” of master teachers.

All have expertise in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – and will be expected to offer peer mentoring and professional development assistance in their content areas during their four years in the program.

State expands early college high school programs

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Eric D. Randall

Saying the state is developing a “clean energy workforce,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced $1.1 million for five Early College High School (ECHS) programs and career exploration programs in energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced technology.

Funding was awarded to expand or create programs in Ballston Spa (Capital Region), Buffalo, Copenhagen (North Country), New York City and Questar III BOCES. All involve partnerships with higher education.

Research Briefs

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

Computer-based curricular program aids gifted and struggling students alike
A software program developed by Stanford University researchers to help gifted students benefits struggling students as well, according to researchers at New York University’s Metropolitan Center.

The center, led by Pedro Noguera, reviewed information about the program called Education Program for Gifted Youth along with several studies and recommends the program to schools “in meeting the challenge of educating all students.”

The program consists of highly visual lessons in math, science and ELA that provide tutorial assistance and generate reports on student outcomes for teachers. Students are able to progress through the lessons at their own speed.

What makes school boards more effective?

Fordham report says it’s ‘academic focus’

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

School board members who prioritize an academic focus for their districts tend to be in districts that do well academically despite fiscal constraints and demographic challenges, says a recent report by the Thomas Fordham Institute.

The report is billed as “the first large-scale effort to gauge the capacity of board members to lead America’s school districts effectively.”

Data was gathered from a national survey administered in 2009 by the National School Boards Association and the Fordham Institute, with additional resources from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Council on Teacher Quality. Nine hundred school board members from 417 districts responded to the national survey.

Alaska is the only state not represented in the data. The majority of respondents were white (80 percent), politically moderate (47 percent), elected to their boards (95 percent) and held jobs in the education or business sectors (27 percent and 18 percent, respectively). 

School-to-prison pipeline not just an urban problem

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Linda Bakst
Deputy Director of Policy Services

Returning from New Orleans, where I had attended the National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next me on the plane. He was a superintendent from Nebraska and had attended the event. When I mentioned the title of the educational session that I co-presented, he looked surprised. “The school-to-prison pipeline? I haven’t heard of that.”

We generally think of schools as places to prepare students for college and careers, not as a conduit to incarceration. But my companion nodded in recognition as I explained the gist of the presentation I had delivered with NYSSBA Research Analyst Gayle Simidian.

It’s when school discipline has unintended consequences. Instead of teaching students appropriate behavior, disciplinary decisions – and disciplinary policies – can push students out of school and into the court system. That tends to lead, eventually, to prison.

Second Circuit applies ‘least restrictive environment’ to summer programs for special education students

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By New York State
Association of School Attorneys

Almost all students lose skills over the summer months, and the beginning of the school year typically includes some time for review. Students with a disability are eligible for “extended school year” (ESY) services if the district’s committee on special education (CSE) determines they would suffer substantial regression – that is, they would require more than 20 to 40 school days to recoup skills lost over the summer.

Also, it is a hallmark of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and its forerunner, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, that special education must be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which a student can make meaningful progress. This means educating students with disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate, alongside typically developing peers in settings as close as possible to the student’s home.

In an April 2 ruling that significantly changes an aspect of the special education landscape, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit considered how the least restrictive environment requirement applied to the case of a five-year-old boy with autism whom the district had determined was entitled to extended school year services.

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