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Rye Schools on Sandy Response, Hazing, Testing and More

A message from the Rye City School District.

After meeting with citizens to listen to their concerns and recommendations regarding the district at a public hearing, open topics forum on Nov. 27, members of the Board of Education shared summaries of their groups' discussions with the community. Many common items of concern and recommendations were mentioned. Superintendent Dr. Alvarez has categorized the following responses based on those major themes.

APPR, Common Core, Acuity Tests, School-Wide Enrichment Model:

Several groups indicated uncertainly in understanding the difference between APPR, Acuity Tests, the Student Enrichment Model, and the Common Core. These initiatives are all being newly implemented into our district, however, they are all vastly different from one another. Explanations are as follows:

  • APPRAPPR is a state requirement that calls for a structured system for evaluating teachers and administrators in which specified components account for certain percentages of a final evaluation score. Our plan, which was submitted to the State for review in September, was recently approved on November 30 and we can now begin implementing it. Teacher and administrator evaluations will be very different under APPR, but both consider student performance. Teacher evaluations will also be based on instructional performance using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching 2011. Administrator evaluations, in addition to being contingent upon student and teacher performance, will be based upon the Multidimensional Principal Performance Rubric. At the end of the school year, every teacher and administrator will receive a HEDI score, placing them in one of these four categories: Highly effective, Effective, Developing or Ineffective. The APPR plan is available on our website homepage, www.ryeschools.org.
 
  • Common Core: The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) were adopted by the New York State Board of Regents in 2011, and 12 instructional shifts were developed. As defined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) outlet, EngageNY.org, the CCLS are internationally-benchmarked and evidence-based standards that serve as a consistent set of expectations for what students should learn and be able to do. Our educators are currently in the process of aligning their curriculum with the 12 shifts. These shifts, as defined by EngageNY in the report, "Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents," are as follows:
    •  ELA/Literacy
      • Read as much non fiction as fiction
      • Learn about the world by reading
      • Read more challenging material closely
      • Discuss reading using evidence
      • Write non-fiction using evidence
      • Increase academic vocabulary
    • Math
      • Focus: Learn more about fewer, key topics
      • Build skills within and across grades
      • Develop speed and accuracy
      • Really know it, really do it
      • Use it in the real world
      • Think fast and solve problems

The shifts do not limit teachers in their ability to select their lessons, resources, or materials, nor do they impact creativity or learning time. Educators still determine the ways they will instruct, but they are expected to achieve the learning levels indicated. Professional development is not taking place during school hours, therefore will not take away from classroom time. There will not be additional assessments as a result of CCLS, but alterations have been made to some of the existing State exams that are administered annually so that they tie in with the CCLS.

 

Our new K-5 report cards were developed based on Common Core outcomes. They measure the progress students are making in meeting the CCLS expectations are being met. The elementary school principals have organized meetings for parents during which the new report cards are being explained and discussed.

 

In January, the district will host a Common Core workshop for parents, presented by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. It will be held on Wednesday, January 15, at 7 p.m. at Osborn School (10 Osborn Road). We encourage parents to attend, and look forward to providing more information as we continue our implementation of the CCLS. The Common Core Learning Standards are also posted on our website homepage.

 

  • Acuity Tests: Acuity is a series of standardized achievement tests which align with the CCLS so they measure student progress toward the CCLS on each grade level. They are on the NYSED list of approved third part assessments which are used to measure student growth and achievement for those components of the teacher evaluation process (APPR). Rye is using Acuity for ELA and math grades K-8.
  • School-Wide Enrichment Model: The School-Wide Enrichment Model is a Rye initiative that provides second and third grade students in each of the elementary schools with the opportunity to participate in enrichment clusters based on learning styles and interests. The groups will each be assigned a project linked to the Common Core Learning Standards. The program will be evaluated and if successful, expanded to other grades. Information on the Enrichment Model is available on our website homepage.

 

Reaction to Crisis:

  • Hazing: Many of the groups raised questions about the hazing incident from last June and specifically, student discipline. While the district is legally prohibited from discussing student disciplinary matters, we do adhere strictly to our Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct, which was sent to homes at the start of the school year, clearly states that behaviors such as bullying and harassment are not tolerated.

 

  • Communications during Sandy: The groups asked questions and provided suggestions regarding communications during Hurricane Sandy. We recognize that communication was a concern during and following the hurricane, given the lack of power and its impact on our email, phone, and website notifications. Administrators have met to debrief, and we have reviewed the email feedback that many parents and other staff members provided. We are looking into communication alternatives including text message alerts for future emergency situations and updating of our directories so that calls will go to cell phones, landlines, and all other contact numbers provided. The High School phone system and districtwide GroupWise email system will have generator backup moving forward. We also understand that everyone is eager to know when the lost time will be made up on the school calendar. We plan to have an update at the December 11 Board of Education meeting. There is a 180-day school year requirement for New York State public school districts, and we have been working to determine how we can meet it.


DASA:

Many questions were asked about the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), which went into effect in July. The district's Code of Conduct was revised to reflect this legislation. Further information about DASA is available through the following links:

Presentation by the New York State Education Department:

http://www.ryeschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/496886/File/Reports%20to/DignityActPresentation6.4.12.pdf?sessionid=775c8cd8bf45dd18d7d204c85ce53088 

 

Resources & Guide:

http://www.ryeschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/496886/File/Reports%20to/DignityForAllStudentsActGuidance_POSTING.pdf?sessionid=775c8cd8bf45dd18d7d204c85ce53088

 

New York State Education Department DASA Information:

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/

 

We were asked if teachers are held to the same standards as students. This is addressed on page 24 of the Resources & Guide document, linked above.

 

Timeline Questions:

Several of the groups asked about the timing of various initiatives. These questions and answers are as follows:

- When will public participation in committees begin? Can we add Committee meetings to website - including Common Core?

Public participation has begun, and committee meetings will be listed on the website.

- What is the plan and timeframe for achieving the communicated goals?

We will be presenting a report on the district goals at a Board of Education meeting in January. We will discuss our progress in achieving the goals and the ways we are measuring this.

- When will enrollment numbers come out?

We will provide a report at the December 11 Board of Education meeting regarding enrollment numbers.

 

Staff:

  • Teachers: Some questions were posed regarding teacher absences. Teacher absences are tracked by the school district. We were also asked about teachers' use of e-boards. Teachers are encouraged to use this feature and post information.

 

  • Tutors: Some of the groups discussed tutors and had questions regarding how they are hired. The Board of Education has hired an outside tutoring firm, Creative Tutoring. Creative Tutoring employs licensed teachers that are not currently working in other schools. When tutors are hired on a long-term basis, they look at the Rye curriculum and then create their own work and assignments that are representative of the time they are spending with the student. For example, if a student is in an Algebra Regents course, the tutor will know what is expected of that student to learn the coursework to understand Algebra and to be successful on the Regents exam. We have a coordinator of Homebound Instruction, Dr. Robert Schechter. He communicates with the families that Homebound Instruction is 10 hours per week, 2 hours per course and conducted in either a public location or at the home with another adult present. He also coordinates with the teachers and counselors what the student will need. Homebound Instruction is coordinated with parents, so tutors contact parents and schedule sessions with students. The school does not give out personal information aside from contact phone numbers for parents for scheduling purposes. The only information requested by Creative Tutoring is an approximate length of time. This fall we shared a message that we were unsure how long tutoring may take place for some of our students.

 

Facilities:

The $1.7 million pledge for the new field/field house was discussed across the groups, and questions were asked about the status. The Board is in the process of working with community members to structure an educational foundation, which will coordinate the fundraising involved with this project. We hope to provide more details in the coming weeks.

 

Elementary Parent-Teacher Conferences:

Questions were raised about elementary school parent-teacher conferences. Unfortunately it is not an option not to hold specials on those days, and we cannot make conferences one full day instead of two half days. Conferences can be by choice, as is done in the Middle School, and we are reviewing that as an option.

 

Other:

- Can we Livestream BOE meetings?

We may consider this for the future. At this time, we do not have plans to change the meeting video procedures.

 

- Can we include new hires & resignations/retirements in Board Notes ("Joining/Leaving the District")?

We will continue to announce retirements at the end of the school year, once we have the full list of individuals leaving the district, and will announce new teachers in late August/early September as has been done in the past.

 

- Can there be life readiness skills taught that will cover accounting, interest, how to balance a check book, mortgage, etc.?

There is a new High School math elective course titled "financial algebra" which received Curriculum Council approval for development. If it receives final Curriculum Council approval and Board of Education approval it will be offered starting in September 2013.

 

- Do the athletes get to do internships this senior year?

The senior internship proposal was approved last year. This first year the internships are limited to 60 students, which may or may not include student athletes.

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