ZEKE WRIGHT Story Body:
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- A two-year grant awarded to 49 school districts including Cambridge Central School for professional development in the classroom "will impact student achievement for many years, many years to come," according to secondary English teacher Colleen McDonald.
Cambridge was awarded $113,500 through the Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness competitive grant, a $72 million program funded through Race to the Top federal education reform.
The grant’s purpose to strengthen recruitment, development, and retention of effective teachers and school leaders comes as local districts implement new, more robust staff evaluations known as Annual Professional Performance Reviews. Eligibility was limited to public and charter schools that have a low-income population of at least 25 percent and are on track to implementing APPRs by January 2013.
McDonald, who wrote the CCS grant proposal, told board members Tuesday the program placed a heavy emphasis on high need areas in science, technology, engineering, and math ("STEM") and students with learning disabilities.
The grant will allow the district to incentivize teachers seeking additional training or certification in those high need areas, or National Board Certification. McDonald said the grant would support the school’s existing mentoring program and link highly effective teachers with their peers for support.
Given a "perfect storm" of reforms relating to APPRs and common core curriculum, McDonald said the state had acknowledged professional development as a necessary component moving forward. "New York state actually thought, ‘Wow, we really should help districts put the professional development in place that will help districts through this. ... Teachers and principals are actually the people on the ground making the impact. ... That’s where we should put our focus.’"
While the grant will pay out over two years, McDonald said the effect on students would be lasting as teachers took those lessons into future classrooms.
Fort Ann Central School was another local district set to receive funds through the program, totaling $60,750.
Twenty-three grant applicants had approved APPR plans in place and were set to receive funds according to the state Education Department earlier this month. Funding for the remainder is contingent on final APPR approval before Jan. 17, 2013.
School Superintendent Vincent Canini said CCS had resubmitted its APPR plan with revisions and he expected approval soon. Among the mistakes in the school’s original plan highlighted by the state Education Department for review, Canini said, were an incomplete test assessment name in areas and a missing P in the word "appeals" in one section.
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