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By John Addyman

   LYONS (Oct 27 10) – The state Department of Education put together an aggressive application for federal “Race to the Top: (RTTT) funds and garnered a $700 million award.
   Now the state is pushing changes that will transform every classroom, how the progress of every child is measured, how every teacher and administrator is evaluated, and how well school districts prepare their graduates for post-secondary education or employment.
   And school districts have 11 days to submit their plans for getting all this started. 

   The Lyons school district received $62,000 in RTTT money to use over a four-year period, to make this myriad of changes.
   When Schools Superintendent Rick Amundson explained what RTTT would mean to the district – and there is an encyclopedia of unanswered questions because the program is so new – school board members were dumbfounded.
   “So we have no money,” summed up Board Member Nancy Sheremeta, “we’re going to have less, and we have to do more.”
   “I comes down to our best guess on how to get this done,” said Amundson. “We really have no choice. Schools across the state have put pretty nearly everything on hold to deal with this. The state education commissioner’s initiatives are the right direction, but the process to follow is very difficult.”
   All school districts will have to adopt a new set of educational standards – the “Common Core Standards” – which are based on international educational outcomes for students worldwide. State tests will get tougher because the expectation is that students will graduate ready for college. “Formative Assessments” – frequent little tests along the way to make sure all kids are staying with their lessons in class – will become the norm.
   Every school district will have a whole deeper set of data on each child’s educational record, and schools will be tasked to recruit and reward teachers and administrators who
Successfully guide students to meet the new standards.
   The magnitude of the changes might not have come at a worse time, when districts are working on pared-back budgets and preparing for the state to reneg on more promised funding next year.
   Director of Special Programs Matt Cook said the district is doing a lot of “repurposing” a the moment, trying to work through the school year while writing reports and plans demanded by RTTT, and preparing to turn programs around to incorporate the new standards and tests.
   “We will hold our students to the same standards other countries do,” Cook said. “The new standard is that we’re getting students ready for college. But there are other avenues to success: not everyone should have to go through the same path to success.”
   Amundson said the new educational standards that students will be tested on have a much higher level of detail and specificity – “a lot of detail and rigor. If we can do this and adopt it well, it’s going to be good for out kids’ education.”
   But hurdles keep coming. Districts are in a full-court press to get the plans submitted, then comes the training for educational leaders in areas of data collection and mining, in teacher and administrator evaluations, in formative and summative (standardized) tests, in curriculum…and more.
   Cook said the RTTT grant mentions that “educators must be given resources, tools and time to adjust classroom practices.” Where that time and money is going to come from wasn’t mentioned. “That’s an even more daunting task given the fact that our budgets are going to get cut (because of lower state aid).”
   School Board President Sharon Tiballi asked if the district could leave the funding on the table and continue on its own path.
   “We still have to do all this anyway,” said Amundson.
   “So we’re going to be spreading people out thinner and thinner,” Tiballi said.
   Amundson and Cook explained another feature of the program – higher expectations for student achievement – on more difficult tests.
   “So tests are going to get harder and we have to have higher scores,” said Board Member Hope Alexanian…
   “…with less money to do it,” finished Board Member Rich Henry.
   Amundson said superintendents in Newark, Clyde-Savannah, Sodus and North Rose-Wolcott were united in finding ways to gain and share information, stretching the small grants each district received. That process will start this week, with district leaders eventually sent to Albany for training, then returning to train others in the area.
   Cook said the goal of the RTTT program is admirable: “They want every student in New York to be successful.”
   “It’s really going to be an interesting time for us,” said Amundson.



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  1. Anonymous Said,

    This is a great program. a example of one positive driven by the Obama Government. About time.

    Posted on Fri Oct 29, 10:07:00 AM EDT


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