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Statement from NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer on grades 3-8 test scores

FOR RELEASE:  August 14, 2014

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

Today’s test results for students in grades 3-8 are encouraging. More students than last year were deemed proficient in math and English/language arts.  

That said, too many students in our schools still are not reaching the mark. The state’s “matched students” approach is a promising tool that could help schools better understand individual student growth and needs in specific subject areas. 


SED gets out key test reports earlier

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The state is giving local educators a chance to get an earlier start this year on gauging how well their students mastered  material on the grades 3-8 English language arts and math exams.

The first batch of “instructional reports” was released in late July – about a month earlier than last year, officials said. Teachers and administrators can use the reports to see how well students were able to answer questions that dealt with specific standards or topics.

The text of test questions was not part of those reports, but the State Education Department (SED) released about 50 percent of the questions on Aug. 6. That’s up from last year’s release of 25 percent of questions.

PE classes can reinforce Common Core lessons

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Sometimes, Nick Fitzgerald has found, infusing Common Core content into an elementary physical education class can be as simple as a hop, skip and a spelling word added to the relay race routine.

By the time students reach junior high or high school, the South Glens Falls athletic director says, the effort could require more thoughtful teaching adjustments to help reinforce material and concepts taught in math, physics or biology class.

“Instead of asking ‘How do you kick a soccer ball?’ a better question is: ‘What muscles are involved in kicking a soccer ball?’” Fitzgerald explained.

Fitzgerald exemplifies a growing number of educators who see PE as an opportunity to hone students’ analytical skills and boost their mastery of the Common Core learning standards for math and literacy.

GEA: Is the end in sight?

On Board Online • August 11 2014

When I listen to school board members and superintendents as I travel throughout the state, nothing that our state government has done evokes as much frustration and bitterness as the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). It’s not just a budgetary fixture that deliberately withholds precious resources from schools. It’s a $7 billion broken promise.

In 2007, lawmakers pledged to increase education funding by $7 billion over four years. That was in response to a resounding ruling by the state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

Instead, just two years later the state faced a multi-billion-dollar budget gap, and lawmakers enacted a predecessor to the GEA called the “Deficit Reduction Assessment.” That was renamed the GEA in 2010. The GEA formula was designed to take state aid away from schools so the state could balance its budget.

As part of a one-two knockout punch to schools, lawmakers also in 2009 froze basic foundation aid to school districts.

TRS contribution rate rises to 17.53%

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

School districts will see an increase in their contribution rates toward the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) for the 2014-15 school year.

The TRS board adopted an employer contribution rate (ECR) of 17.53 percent at its July meeting, up from 16.25 percent in 2013-14. TRS covers teachers, teaching assistants, guidance counselors and educational administrators in public school districts and BOCES outside of New York City.

Payments associated with the 2014-15 rate will be collected in the fall of 2015. The 2013-14 rate is applied to the 2013-14 TRS member payroll and will be collected this fall.

Commissioner upholds zero on midterm for student who brought cellphone to exam

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Kate Gaffney
Senior Staff Attorney

The commissioner of education recently upheld a district’s decision to give a student a zero on a midterm exam because he brought his cell phone into the testing room in violation of the district’s assessment procedures. According to the commissioner, “[w]here a student is found to have compromised the integrity of even one portion of an examination, a grade of zero, after a full investigation by the school district of the circumstances surrounding the grade, and after the student had an opportunity to present his version of the incident, is not arbitrary or capricious.”  

In Appeal of D.F., the commissioner explained that decisions regarding student grading ultimately rest with a school board as part of its authority to prescribe the course of study by which students are graded and classified. Thus, the commissioner will uphold any such determinations, unless there is proof that school officials acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably.

Decision instructive on duty to provide instruction to nonpublic students with temporary disabilities

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Kate Gaffney
Senior Staff Attorney

Under state law, school districts are required to provide temporary homebound instruction to nonpublic school students who reside in the district and are unable to attend their private or parochial school due to a short-term disability. Districts are not required to provide that instruction, however, if the student continues to attend classes in the nonpublic school during that period of disability, according to a recent decision from the commissioner of education in Appeal of K.L.

Although the commissioner dismissed the appeal on procedural grounds, he commented on why he would have dismissed it on the merits as well.

In Appeal of K.L, a ninth-grade student was unable to attend school full time due to illness. Her physician indicated that she could only attend school for two hours each day and that she would need home instruction for two additional hours each day. Her mother enrolled her in a nonpublic school which provided her with two hours of instruction each day in two subjects – “Writing and Literature I” and “Environmental Science.” The mother then asked the district of residence to provide her daughter with home instruction in her remaining classes, but the district refused.

Tech Valley High School’s Leah Penniman

Teacher, farmer, aerialist … and Fulbright scholar

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Alan Wechsler
Special Correspondent

At age 34, biology and chemistry teacher Leah Penniman has accomplished more than most educators could hope to do in a lifetime.

She founded an independent high school. Met the president. Took students on a Peace Corps-style trip to improve life in a Haitian village.

She and her husband, organic farmer Jonah Vitale-Wolff, own a farm where they train interns in pesticide-free agriculture and raise fruits and vegetables for dozens of inner-city residents. For fun and exercise, Penniman performs aerial silk dances (which involves gymnastics while suspended high above the ground on a silk fabric).

What can urban schools teach us about hiring principals?

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

School districts need to pay more attention to the process they use to hire principals, according to a new report by the Thomas Fordham Institute, a conservative research group focused on education policy. The Institute teamed up with Public Impact, an organization dedicated to enhancing K-12 education, to study principal recruitment, selection and placement strategies in five urban school districts.

The study, Lacking Leaders: The Challenge of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement, took place from August 2013 to April 2014 and included site visits, interviews and surveys. To protect anonymity, each of the five districts is referred to by an alias – Reformville, River City, Union City, Urbanopolis and Harbor Town. These districts had proficiency ranges between 48 percent and 71 percent on 2012-13 state tests.

Does the principal’s job need to be made ‘more appealing’?

On Board Online • August 11 2014

By Russ Moore

I just finished my 26th year as a principal in Albany County’s North Colonie Central School District. I am not the same principal I was when hired, or even that I was 10 years ago. The responsibilities of my job have changed, and so have I.

More than in the past, both teachers and principals rely on data to influence or inform instructional practices. Being able to analyze data to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness in a given facet of teaching is crucial. A person entering administration today has got to be conversant with this component of supervision, in addition to having many other skills and abilities.

Because the demands of the job have increased and become more complex, it’s not surprising that well-qualified teachers might not pursue the role of principal. They might look at the additional time and job responsibilities that accompany any principal’s job and make the decision that’s it’s just not worth it. Although the principal might get paid a bit more, a teacher might view his or her current salary as “good enough.”

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