HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- Hoosick Falls Central School officials have put the wheels in motion for significant reforms covering curriculum and teacher evaluations in the upcoming school year.
At Thursday's re-organizational meeting, board members approved summer curriculum writing stipends for most faculty so that teachers can adjust lesson plans for new common core standards adopted by the state Board of Regents. Implementation of those new standards is scheduled to include full alignment in grades 3 through 8 in the approaching 2012-13 school year.
Budgeted at $60,000, most teachers received two-day curriculum writing appointments which will serve to offset some but not all of their summer work revising curriculum.
Meanwhile, board members also approved certain administrators as "lead evaluators" for new, more robust evaluations for teachers and principals known as Annual Professional Performance Reviews.
Evidencing the difficulty of negotiations between local schools and unions, fewer than one-quarter of New York school districts made the July 1 deadline for submitting APPR agreements to the state Education Department. (Schools are expected to have until mid-January 2013 to receive state approval on agreements without penalty.)
"Every single teacher is writing curriculum," said school Superintendent Kenneth Facin, telling board members that the school had not previously revamped curriculum during his tenure because of looming changes with the common core. "This is huge for us."
While the mandated reforms and their implementation have been received with varying enthusiasm by local educators around the state, Facin expressed a positive outlook Thursday, describing the curriculum changes as "momentous" and "transformational," and the APPRs as adding accountability.
"It will be very good for us, and it will be very good for education," he said, speaking of the evaluations that will serve as the "basis of hire, tenure, termination, (and) merit pay" decisions in the future.
An agreement at HFCS on APPRs for the 2012-13 school year was submitted June 29, but Facin said he could not speak to specifics until that agreement was accepted by the state. The evaluations broadly rely on standardized testing and in-classroom observations in the fall and spring. A one-year trial agreement at HFCS for 2011-12 included a portfolio of student work and also a reflective essay written by the teacher.
The recent compromise decision to release aggregate teacher "ratings" (ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective) to parents of students of those teachers merited some discussion by the board Thursday.
Board President Greg Laurin said in no private workplace he had been employed did they publicly release the results of performance reviews. Facin said the release was problematic particularly during the implementation phase of the evaluations, and he reiterated that evaluations would not serve as a "menu where you pick your teacher (by their) rating."
A large incoming class of 90 students merited the addition of a fifth kindergarten section, which the board approved and covered monetarily through unanticipated state revenue known as "bullet aid" totaling $30,000, approved in the form of a late legislative appropriation in May.
Board members also discussed the school's year-end awards ceremony, and the need for guidelines when setting up memorial awards and gifts on campus. The board agreed to have a principal vet awards next year, and Laurin proposed that the school policy subcommittee draft rules prescribing the procedure for future memorial recognitions.
Board member David Sutton complimented this year's awards ceremony but said the school needed a plan for equitable treatment for memorials. "They should each get the same kindness," he said of those receiving recognition and their families.
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