Education in New York State is changing dramatically. Since the acceptance of Race to the Top funds and as part of the adoption of the , all school districts in the state are undergoing a vast shift in how education is administered.
This past August Mineola assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Patricia Burns visited Albany to learn “a lot more than I knew about common core standards and how we can go about implementing them in our district,” she said at the November 17 meeting of the board of education.
There are several components to the reform agenda, which include adopting the common core standards, building an instructional data system – which Burns said the district is beginning to do – and recruiting, developing and retaining teachers.
The process involves examining the current curriculum and aligning standards to that. Six full days of workshops at each grade level dealing with ELA as well as math workshops will also aid teachers with the new standards.
a total of three times each school year, “so our kids are already taking steps that give our teachers information to drive instruction,” Burns said.
Teachers prepare together and plan decisions in the classroom about where children should be during a dedicated professional learning career (PLC) time.
“All of the students have actual goals so they know where they are so they own their own learning,” Burns said, “so they’re very aware of where they are, where they need to be, what they need to be learning, what they need to be working on.”
There are a total of 99 different webpages being placed on the Mineola district website with specific work and skill according to the superintendent.
“The notion there is the children and the parents need to work together at home on those skills,” Dr. Nagler said. The staff has a goal of having the pages up and running before the winter break.
“We’re looking at how the NWEA teachers can go back to the PLC and look at the data-driven instructional decisions based on the information,” Burns said. “We have a much better understanding of what we can do with it, how powerful it is. (Teachers) have to know where kids are in order to make instructional decisions.”
Another round of assessments are set for in January, including NWEA and reading and writing, with results being known in February, 2012.
“The workshops are very informative because they’re giving us the direction that the state is going in,” Dr. Nagler said. “The common core is all the curriculum in all our subjects and they have to be aligned to an assessment that we haven’t seen yet. We’re guessing at what the assessment is going to look like so there’s a lot of work in helping teachers understand what the new curriculum is in order to prepare our kids.”
Students will not be the only ones receiving evaluations, as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) will be used for determining teacher’s effectiveness as well as . Mineola already has APPR for teachers in place.
“I’m quite surprised about how many districts do not have any type of rubric,” Dr. Nagler said, doing his best to describe the “complicated” scoring program, saying that “every course that does not have a test at the end of it, which for us is most of our courses, needs to develop something with the teacher called SLO or a student learning objective.”
An SLO is similar to a “smart goal,” currently used by Mineola, but the superintendent said “what the state is telling us is where there’s an absence of a state exam in essence, we’re required to create the exam.”
In some cases the exam could be the NWEA, which is only approved for grades 2 to 12. Mineola would have to purchase a different exam for K-1.
“In some cases we have to buy the assessment in order to meet the state criteria and in other cases we have to create the assessment,” Dr. Nagler said.
The district also needs a “local assessment” since 20 percent of the score is “local,” he said. “I’ve read it three times, I still don’t understand pieces of it.”
Taking the example of a second grade teacher with 30 students, 12 of which are ESL, that teacher has to create three SLO’s – one for whole class for ELA, one for Math for the whole class and a third for the ESL students (NYSESLAT would be used). Depending on how children do on the exam, the average score would be the benchmark.
However, because the measurement is the average, “you’re going to have a lot of kids that are below the average,” Dr. Nagler said.
Depending on the percentage of students who score better than the average, the teacher receives points. The three point scores from the exams are put to a formula that produces “an overall growth performance score” which is applied to a scale for all teachers with four categories: high effective developing ineffective (HEDI), into which a teacher would fall. This would be worth 20 percent of a teacher’s overall score.
“I think the expectation that this gets developed by next year is a very difficult timeline to meet,” Dr. Nagler said. “There is so much work in just explaining this. If you think about it, we are now testing our children in multiple areas to get a score for the teacher.”
The superintendent also said that Mineola would have to have the local assessment (NWEA) now used as the state assessment and “backfill” the local component through another exam.
“They’re going to be tested a lot,” he said of students. “This is I think the tip of the iceberg.”