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Catch 22: Financial penalty for schools moving off 'persistently struggling' list

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

For nearly 70 schools around New York, the word that they soon will graduate from state lists of struggling and persistently struggling schools has created a classic good news-bad news scenario.

Losing the label has been cause for celebration in many schools, lifting them from a state-imposed program known as receivership. But by shedding that status, nine schools now stand to lose shares of $75 million the Legislature set aside for "persistently struggling" schools.

A pointed debate in school food service

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Consider the spork, the school cafeteria's quintessential compromise.

In the hand of a hungry second-grader, it can spear a chunk of fruit, deliver it to its toothy target and scoop up a dab of applesauce with barely a break in momentum.

It's not quite a spoon, it's not a full-fledged fork and it has little chance of being mistaken for a knife. Yet, this blunt piece of plastic has evolved into a sharply divisive implement that earns no better than a split decision among school food service managers.

In praise of substance over style

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

Susan Bergtraum
NYSSBA President

This year's presidential primaries on both the Republican and Democratic sides seem to have taught us a lot about politics and the political process.

As school board members, we're no strangers to running for election. But you have to admit, this year's election season has been like no other - and what a contrast to local school board elections!

The federal electoral system is so much more complicated than the local school board election process. This year, we've really gotten a peek into how presidential candidates actually earn delegates during the primary process. I don't remember anything about "super delegates" from civics class. Talk about a teachable moment!

Commissioner sets 3-year timetable on standards, tests, evaluations

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

A three-year schedule for rebooting all elements of New York's education reform agenda will culminate with the proposal of a new evaluation system for teachers and principals in the 2019-20 school year, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia told the Regents at their April meeting.

Under Elia's detailed timeline, the new evaluation system will await completion of two other initiatives: revising state standards and overhauling state tests. Yet, all three will move simultaneously on their own dedicated tracks for review, public input, professional development and other carefully phased work, she said.

Cutlery made from corn is cutting edge, but recycling process can be daunting

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

As schools incorporate more compostable lunch trays and similar products into their food service operations, many also are looking to expand their environmental efforts to include alternatives to plastic cutlery.

Easier said than done, say experts in composting and recycling.

"This is not an insignificant challenge for any organization looking to 'green' its food services," said Greg Gelewski, recycling operations manager for the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA).

Data drives new discipline code at Syracuse

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

Arriving late to school a lot, running in the hallways and smoking are all behaviors that got Syracuse City School District students suspended before the district's 2014 school discipline policy took effect, according to district officials.

Students also got in trouble for "the Ds" - being perceived by a teacher as disrespectful, disobedient, disorderly, disruptive or defiant. Amid concerns that black students were being punished disproportionately, the district revamped its discipline policy between 2012 and 2014.

Lynbrook connects technology, art & community service in STEAM project

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Eric D. Randall

When New York's Lynbrook Union Free School District bought a couple of low-end 3-D printers, art teacher Michael Kunz and technology teacher Paul Rotstein had fun experimenting with them. What emerged was a partnership with a local hospital and a project that ended up benefiting children with cerebral palsy and other medical conditions.

In a session at NSBA's Annual Conference in Boston entitled, "Creating an Authentic STEAM Initiative," the teachers described a collaboration in which technology students interviewed children at a hospital, then designed and created toys and adaptive aids for them.

Why every adult in your school district should know this term: 'Child Find'

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By the New York State Association of School Attorneys

A high-achieving student - let's call her Sara - begins to show signs of social difficulties. Her attendance begins to decline, as do her grades. Staff members suspect she is involved in substance abuse, and Sara tells a school counselor that she has been "cutting" herself, ritually making small incisions in her skin with a razor blade. The student's parents subsequently advise the school counselor that Sara has been seeing a private therapist.

Federal appellate court is deferential to DOE's view on transgender rights

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

By Pilar Sokol
Deputy General Counsel

One of the more controversial questions in public education involves which bathrooms should be used by transgender students. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) took the position that Title IX and its implementing regulations protect the right of transgender students to access such facilities consistent with the gender they identify with rather than the gender on their birth certificate.

While some have questioned that interpretation of law, it was recently deemed entitled to deference by a federal circuit court with jurisdiction in Virginia and four other states.

Creating multiple pathways to student success

On Board Online • May 2, 2016

MaryEllen Elia
Commissioner of Education

In a few more weeks, another school year will start to wind down. At the same time, tens of thousands of New York's high school seniors will begin to gear up for graduation day.

Last year, more than 78 percent of our students graduated on time, in four years. Simply put, that's not good enough. For the nearly one-in-four students who don't earn a high school diploma, it's virtually a one-way ticket to a less successful future.

Encouragingly, the graduation rate is up almost two percentage points from 2014, and it's up substantially from 10 years ago, when fewer than 66 percent of students graduated on time.

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