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Some high-poverty schools post jumps in scores; reasons unclear

On Board Online • September 1, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

New York’s student test scores are telling more stories this year.

Here is one of the more encouraging ones: some schools saw remarkable improvement in their students’ results, despite high rates of poverty.

At Watertown’s North Elementary School, for example, the percentage of students with scores showing ELA proficiency rose by more than 14 points, while the percentage of students proficient in math jumped by 32.4 points. More than 70 percent of the school’s students live below the poverty line, according to State Education Department data.

NYSSBA used “matched student” data to compare test results for the same individual students who took the tests last year and this year.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to raise the achievement level in a building where there are not a lot of additional resources available for our students,’’ said Watertown Superintendent Terry N. Fralick.

Passion for history lands teacher on YouTube, new H2 TV network

On Board Online • September 1, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Buffalo social studies teacher Keith Hughes calls his video camera his “second classroom.”

Tens of thousands of viewers have seen one or more of the 200-plus videos posted on his YouTube channel, HipHughesHistory, over the last five years or so.

“Learning should be fun, focused and free,” Hughes declares in a video invitation to students, life-long learners and other prospective viewers he playfully refers to as “the cray-cray on the Internets.” (Cray-cray is slang for “crazies.”)

With his black-framed hipster eyeglasses and whacky-yet-intense presentation style, Hughes could inspire comparisons to comedians Drew Carey and Lewis Black. Exclamations of “Giddyup!” punctuate his remarks, and an oft-repeated catchphrase – “Where attention goes, energy flows” – doubles as a slogan for his educational philosophy.

Hughes, 42, began reaching a new audience this year through his participation in a nationally televised program called United Stuff of America. The show is produced for the H2 network, an affiliate of the History Channel, by Leftfield Pictures, best known for the popular show Pawn Stars.

President's Commentary - Making sense of the Common Core

On Board Online • September 1, 2014

By Lynne L. Lenhardt
NYSSBA President

Select the best choice below to complete the following statement: The Common Core Learning Standards are ________.

A. Necessary to give our students the best chance of succeeding in today’s hyper-competitive global marketplace.

B. Ruining our schools and unfair to students.

Although the vast majority of school board members I’ve talked to seem to believe the better answer is A, we all know intelligent, caring people who believe that B is correct.

One’s answer can depend on what you think of when you hear the words “Common Core.” Personally, I think “high standards.” But others may think “testing” or even “corporate conspiracy.”

Chester schools launch wireless initiative with Chromebooks

On Board Online • September 1, 2014

By Merri Rosenberg
Special Correspondent

In school technology, it’s the ultimate upgrade: moving to a wireless world, with personalized devices that enable students to learn about almost anything from almost anywhere. The ideal system would enhance teachers’ ability to customize instruction and communicate with students and parents seamlessly.

One district that has taken a bold step in expanding student access to technology is the 1,000-student Chester school district in Orange County. This fall, students in grades 8-12 will have take-home Chromebooks. Other students in certain grades have access to Chromebooks in classrooms.

Chromebooks – laptops made by a variety of manufacturers that run Google’s Chrome OS as the operating system – cost about $250, noted Edward Spence, the district’s director of instruction and technology and a former IBM staffer. That’s cheap compared to laptops at $400 to $500 or iPads, at about $600.

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. 



August 12, 2014  

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo signed Chapter 273 of 2014, which is legislation to extend school districts’ authority to continue the use of lever voting machines for one final year.  The bill was one of NYSSBA’s highest legislative priorities and its passage came after an intensive advocacy effort.  It is the first time in a generation that legislation has been passed and signed into law following notice by a governor that he would veto any such legislation, signaling recognition of newly presented information provided by your association.

Links To:

  • To be eligible, school districts must have had a Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) rate of at least 50% in the 2011-12 school year. Those eligible districts, their award amounts and application status can be found here.
  • Additional information on the School Technology Voucher Program (STVP), including SED program contacts, can be found here.


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.

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