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Opt-out concerns trump test gains

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

State test results released this month showed modest gains for students in grades 3-8, with the portion of students considered proficient in math and English language arts still floating around one third of those tested.

Any lessons for educators within the latest data, however, have been overshadowed for the moment by concern over the soaring number of students who skipped the exams.

The State Education Department estimates that about 20 percent of the approximately 1.1 million students who were eligible to take the tests this year did not and lacked valid excuses, such as illness. The rate of test refusals last year was about 5 percent.

State education officials said their preliminary analysis indicated that students who sat out the tests were much more likely to be white and to be from low-need (wealthier) or average-need districts. Students who were not tested also were slightly more likely to have scored at levels 1 or 2 (below proficiency) on last year's tests.

Elia appoints monitor in East Ramapo

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has named former New York City schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott as state monitor to oversee operations in the East Ramapo school district.

Walcott's appointment was necessary "to ensure that the educational rights of the district's students are protected," Elia said in a news release, adding "there is clear evidence that for many years, the district has not adequately served the needs of its public school students."

Assisting Walcott will be John Sipple, director of the New York State Center for Rural Schools and associate professor at Cornell University with expertise in public school finance and policy, and educational leadership consultant Monica George-Fields, a former school principal in New York City and senior fellow for school innovation with the Regents Research Fund.

Course corrections

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

Sebastian Junger's 1997 book, The Perfect Storm, recounts how crew members of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel, tragically met their demise when they encountered a rare confluence of three powerful storms at sea. Thus was born a metaphor that has been used many times to describe a tragic combination of forces, often in threes, culminating in a crisis of enormous proportions.

Some would say that New York's public education system has entered (and will remain trapped in) the perfect storm, given the combined impact of (1) the Common Core, (2) changes in the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system that links teacher evaluations to student test results, and (3) the parental Opt Out movement.

L.I. teacher's lawsuit on evaluation rating is microcosm of issues of APPR fairness

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The complex calculations the State Education Department uses to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations are on trial in a court case to be decided in Albany.

The computations that pegged Long Island teacher Sheri G. Lederman as "ineffective" in fostering her students' academic growth amount to "a statistical black box that no one could find rational," her husband and attorney, Bruce H. Lederman, argued in State Supreme Court.

But Assistant Attorney General Colleen D. Galligan, who represented state education officials at the arguments on Aug. 12, defended the state's growth model as valid and meaningful. In court papers, the state said just six of Lederman's 32 students performed as well as or better than expected on their state tests, and the remaining 26 student scores were below what was expected.

SED provides APPR sample evaluation plans

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The State Education Department has posted sample evaluation plans and other documents on its EngageNY website to help guide educators through implementation of the latest version of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR).

School districts are facing an Oct. 1 deadline for submission of revised APPR teacher and principal evaluation agreements to be used in this school year. The plans must be approved and implemented by Nov. 15 unless hardship waivers are approved.

College isn't only path to a lucrative job: NSBA study

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

Here's some good news for anyone involved in career and technical education: Students who don't go to college but take vocational courses in high school can set themselves up for success when they reach their mid-twenties, according to a new report.

By the time they are 26, only 12 percent of high school graduates have not been enrolled in either a two-year or four-year college, according to the report from the Center for Public Education, the research arm of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The Path Least Taken II: Preparing Non-college Goers for Success is based on federal data from a longitudinal study of high school students over a 10-year span (2002-12).

New efforts to serve English language learners

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

Merryl Tisch
Chancellor, Board of Regents

Soon 3.1 million public school children will be returning to classrooms across the state. Many will be new to our schools; some new to our country.

Over the past decade, New York has become home to many new immigrants and others who do not speak English. Last school year, there were more than 240,000 English language learners (ELLs) who spoke more than 200 different languages in our public schools.

The ELL population has grown to 10.9 percent in Rockland County and 8.2 percent in Westchester. On Long Island, Suffolk and Nassau county schools have ELL percentages of 7.7 and 6.8, respectively. In Erie County, ELLs make up 5.1 percent of the student population. The student population in Oneida County, in the middle of the state, is nearly 6 percent ELL.

Barbara Mauro joins NYSSBA Board of Directors

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Al Marlin
Communications Manager

Barbara Mauro of Niskayuna has joined NYSSBA's Board of Directors as Area 7 director.

Although her elected two-year term won't begin until Jan. 1, 2016, Mauro joined the board this month to fill the unexpired term of her predecessor, Matt Wade. Wade resigned from his position on July 31 to take a job outside New York State.

As Area 7 director, Mauro represents school districts in Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties.

Mauro recently was re-elected as a board member of the Capital Region BOCES, where she has served since 2006.

District-level environmental compliance audits are a sound strategy

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By the New York State Association of School Attorneys

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) conducts inspections in a broad spectrum of industries, including inspections at educational institutions.

In school districts, these inspections serve two primary purposes: (1) to ensure that district facilities are being managed and run in a manner that ensures a safe and healthy environment for students, staff and visitors; and (2) to ensure that district operations aren't impairing the environment.

Understandably, school officials can find such governmental inspections stressful. If inspectors find violations of environmental laws, this can result in fines and remediation costs for the districts, not to mention unwanted negative publicity.

Teacher consent required for all out-of-tenure area assignments

On Board Online • August 31, 2015

By Jeffrey Mongelli
Senior Staff Attorney

Is it possible for a teacher to earn seniority credit within the tenure area of her probationary appointment, even if she never taught within that tenure area? Yes, according to a state appellate court ruling in Matter of Cronk v. King.

In Matter of Cronk, the school board appointed Cronk to a three-year probationary term and granted her tenure in the English 7-12 tenure area. However, she never served in that area because the district immediately assigned her to teach computer applications courses.

Generally, when teachers are assigned to work outside their tenure area without their consent, they are deemed to be working within their assigned tenure area for purposes of seniority credit. In addition, teachers can be deemed to serve only within an authorized tenure area that encompasses the functions of their position.

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