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Local News

August 31, 2013

Area schools: Stakes have been raised

New mandates mean more pressure for students, teachers

With schools opening for students this week, area superintendents said Friday they were looking forward to opening day. Most said they expect a good year, although recently revised curriculum standards and new teacher-evaluation systems loom as potential challenges.

“Everybody is really excited about a new start,” said Unatego Central School Superintendent Charles Molloy. “I always look forward to seeing the kids.”

He said he has met with his administrators and “everything is in place,” for the Wednesday opening. Although a construction project to retrofit bathrooms in the junior/senior high school won’t be finished, the bathrooms will be useable and the school will open on time.

In discussing the challenges schools face in the upcoming year, continued implementation of the Common Core curriculum was cited by all those interviewed on the issue. A system of state-mandated teacher evaluations, known as annual professional performance reviews (APPR), was also cited by some.

Scores on standardized tests based on the first year of the new curriculum showed a sharp drop in most New York schools. The state Education Department said last year’s test should not be compared to previous exams.

Instead, the scores should serve as a baseline.

The testing did not coordinate with all the curriculum, Molloy said, but that’s been improved for the upcoming year, and he said he was looking forward to a lot of improvement.

“It will require a lot of hard work from students,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work on staff development,” and the APPR will help by providing better supervision for teachers.

Laurens Central School Superintendent Romona Wenck said: “I love it when the kids come back.” Teachers have been in and out all summer getting ready for the students’ return Thursday, she said.Teaching to the Common Core will be a main focus as the district makes sure the curriculum aligns to what’s going on in the classroom. It will be a year-long goal to successfully implement the state modules, or lessons, in math and English language arts, but she said she was confident students’ scores would improve.

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