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Columns

September 1, 2012

Area schools face many challenges

Challenges facing schools this year were spelled out in a recent media release from the New York State School Board Association.

They include adopting common core math and English language arts standards for grades 3 through 8, tying teacher evaluations to growth in student achievement, and stepping up bullying-prevention efforts.

“The start of the new school year often brings many new initiatives, but this year is notable for the breadth and complexity of them,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “School board members are poised to raise academic standards, put the best possible teachers in the classroom, and create a safe school environment. They certainly have their work cut out for them, but they are up to the challenge.”

A recent poll from the association indicated that school board members are optimistic that the new state initiatives will benefit students. According to 583 respondents to its “Pulse Poll,” 45 percent ranked the adoption of common core learning standards as likely to have the greatest positive impact on students of any of the new initiatives taking effect this year.

In addition, 21 percent of board members ranked the new teacher and principal evaluation system as likely to have the greatest positive impact on students, while 14 percent believe anti-bullying legislation will have the greatest effect.

While respondents are optimistic about the effect of the initiatives on students, they were concerned about the schools ability to pay for some educational programs. Forty percent of school board members said their top priority for the year was to make sure they can continue to provide such programs in the face of current financial realities.

“Schools continue to be hamstrung by an economy that has yet to rebound fully from the recession and by myriad state-imposed mandates,” Kremer said. “Despite these fiscal pressures, this is an opportune time for reform-minded school leaders to promote student achievement and a safe school environment

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