Instructional and Operational Expenses Review Meeting

budget pieThe budget review meetings are about to enter the second half. The past two meetings were attended by 6 and 4 residents, respectively. Before the last meeting, I suggested to make the environment more work conducive, like rearrange chairs so we could use tables to rest our papers and make notes easier. Nay.

Due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) introduced in 2010 the state aid for our district was reduced by approximately $1 million. (Information about the GEA can be found in this pdf document). When asked about the board’s efforts to restore the state aid for our district to its full extent, the board admitted it has never sent a request. Dr. Hunderfund added that the superintendents association has been lobbying legislators in that matter. Continue reading

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Spark in South Country

grade 3 button In a very short time the South Country school district, Suffolk County, went from a “sit and stare”* policy (forcing students to sit and do nothing during the testing time), to one that has completely shifted focus away from testing altogether. They are even revamping their curriculum to be more creative based and teacher led. Here is how a resident paraphrased the assistant super. for curriculum and instruction: Continue reading

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Mandates or Project-Based Learning?

White House festivalSome time ago the White House asked schools to create a film and submit it. The film was supposed to show how the technology can help form the future and how the technology is used in schools. There were 2500 films submitted. 16 films were posted on the White House site on February 28th.

With the film festival, the national educational leader is sending contradicting messages. His Race to The Top (RtTT) program is promoting rigorous education via learning standards, student assessments, and teacher evaluations. Our district, MUFSD, received a total of $43,000, split in 3 annual payments while it was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars implementing the RtTT program. Continue reading

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Veterans’ Exemption, Budget Review Main Topics at The February Meeting

pie chart from proposed 2014-2015 budgetThe board of education (BOE) meeting, held on February 11th, opened its session with recognition of the music department and students who participated in All-County Music Festival at LIU Post’s Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.

After holding a moment of silence for the Garcia family, the administration thanked Mrs. Shannon Kelly, science teacher at the HS, for her excellent grant proposal writing efforts. She helped secure 21 grants in the total amount of $1.2 million and she is in pursuit of additional grants. Continue reading

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Adjustment to The CCSS Implementation

merryl tischThe state Board of Regents, under pressure from teachers unions, parents, and a state legislature that’s threatening to override part of their authority, agreed to delay until 2022 the full implementation of tests aligned with the new Common Core learning standards, and to change the evaluation systems so it would be almost impossible to fire a teacher whose students turned in poor test scores on standardized tests.

Beside the summary Regents released on Monday, Feb. 10, I read the full report of their 19 changes to the implementation entitled Adjustment Options to Common Core Implementation, (pdf) and below is my summary. The report looks like it makes significant changes, but ultimately makes very small adjustments. Continue reading

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Issues Facing Education

This post was updated on 4/18/2014 after I received author’s permission to repost his entire original post.

I have been preparing to write on issues facing education for some time. I was gathering topics and links and, then I came across an article in Education Week. The author, Peter DeWitt, principal of an elementary school, gathered a list of issues that far exceeds topics I would recommend to keep your eyes on. His list is more universal, mine would have been district-centered. After seeing the universal issues, it’s easy to imagine our local issues. Here is a link to author’s original article 10 critical issues facing education. (You may need a subscription). So below is the repost.

Top 10 Critical Issues

Critical issues are those issues that are important to education. They are the barriers that get in the way, or the important elements that we need to focus on in order to move forward and offer better opportunities to our students.

Common Core State Standards – 46 states may have adopted the standards but around a dozen states are backing out or considering backing out of using them. Regardless of how people feel about the Common Core they have led to many hot debates about education, and will continue to do so in 2014.

Student Learning – Student learning is everything from different pathways to graduation, encouraging student voice in student learning, and encouraging them have a place at the table for larger conversations about their education (Lisa Nielsen’s Innovative Educator blog that focuses on student voice). So often we focus on teaching, but it’s learning that matters most.

Technology – Even after all of these years technology is still a hot button issues. Some people love it and use it flawlessly every day, while others hate it and don’t see why they need to be forced to use it at all. In addition what makes it complicated is that some schools seem to have endless resources, while other schools have to use what wealthier schools disregarded as old. Whether its MOOC’s, iPads, gaming or BYOD, technology will still be a critical issue to discuss in 2014.

Social MediaTwitter has exploded over the past few years. More and more educators are joining and finding members to their Professional Learning Network (PLN). What’s even better is that they are sharing resources to use in their classrooms, buildings and districts, and they are also using it to connect for professional development (i.e. Twitter chats, EdCamps, etc.). Social media will be, and should be, part of a huge discussion in 2014.

Politics – Politicians have long mentioned education in their speeches but the past two years it seemed to have happened more than ever. Many politicians seem to focus on how schools are failing, and their only solution is standardization, accountability and high stakes testing. Many governors, like Andrew Cuomo, are running for re-election this year and education will no doubt make or break their campaigns. How many politicians, like Cuomo and Christie, have spoken about teachers is deplorable and this is the year when teachers continue to take control over that conversation.

High Stakes Testing – Not sure if you have heard of this before but schools across the country have to give high stakes tests to students. Some start it in kindergarten, while others begin in 3rd grade. In most states they are tied to teacher/administrator evaluation and that will no doubt continue to be a big debate this year. There need to be different methods used to assess student learning, and none of it should be “high stakes.”

School Leadership – If you go on Twitter, you will find hundreds of school leaders who consider themselves “Lead Learners.” This is very important because they see the important part they play in the lives of their students, teachers and staff. In addition, school leaders understand that they can have a positive or negative impact on their school climate, and too many still have a negative impact.

Pre-service Teaching Programs – How can we get the best teachers into our classrooms when so many politicians and policymakers cry that schools are failing? Under those circumstances, who would want to go into the profession? Additionally, pre-service programs need to improve because many of the graduates do not seem prepared for the profession. The real question for 2014 is how can K-12 schools work with these programs to build a community of learners who are prepared for the profession? A little less accountability tied to testing would go a long way to improve this issue.

School Climate – A few days ago Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines to stop the school to prison pipeline and improve school climate. This critical issue is not just about bullying, but about creating an inclusive school climate where all students can achieve their maximum potential.

Poverty – We know around 22% of our students are living in poverty. We also know that many children who live in poverty come to kindergarten hearing 1/8th of the language (vocabulary) that their wealthier peers experienced. Many of the schools that try to educate these students lack the proper resources, and the communities where children in poverty live often lack the same resources that wealthier towns have. Poverty is an issue that is one of the most critical issues of our time, in and out of schools.

In the End

We have many critical issues facing education this year, and the larger question should be…How are we going to work together to solve them? I stopped with ten but probably could have gone on with a few more. What would you add to the list?

 

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January BOE Meeting

The BOE meeting was held on January 14. It opened its session with an athletic achievements ceremony. Some teams were traveling to their games that evening, but majority of teams were present. Since not all team members would fit in the HS library, students were waiting in the hallway. They were called in to receive a certificate and pose for a team picture. After they cleared the room, next team was called in. Continue reading

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Parent Academy – Every 15 Years

The parent academy or workshops, as they are also called, take place in the New York State and across the Race to The Top country. They are prescribed to each school district. Districts download the workshop modules located at engageny.org, NYSED website. The parent academies promote the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) which are part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Continue reading

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New York’s Educational Agenda, Part 1

state-of-the-state 2014The SOS Agenda

Governor Cuomo barely finished his State of the State speech on January 8th when the first reactions to his speech started appearing in social media. The following day, there were two petitions drafted regarding the merit pay and $20,000 bonuses for teachers the governor mentioned. Continue reading

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Meeting Invitation to BOE Members

meeting invitation iconCurrently, the education system is going through drastic changes. In 2010, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) agreed to proceed (and accept funds) with a federal plan entitled Common Core State Standards Initiative. Yet the implementation of the plan hasn’t been smooth. The interpretation of requirements (mandate) differs from one district to another. The administrators and members of school boards, who rely only on official memos issued by the education department are far less informed than parents, who are doing their own research, share the information across the country and with local residents at public meetings. I am part of a team organizing such a meeting near our district, so I took the initiative and invited the members of Malverne school board. This is the text of the invitation. Continue reading

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