Archive for October, 2009

Commissioner gives excessive state testing an F

October 29th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

State Education Commissioner David Steiner took his “listening tour” to Western New York yesterday, visiting Buffalo charter and district schools and suburban Clarence Central High School.

The Buffalo News headlined its coverage of the Commissioner’s visit, “Excessive testing in schools gets ‘F.'”

The News’ article begins,

The state’s new education commissioner says he wants to de-emphasize assessment testing, saying too much “teaching to the test” is going on in schools.

“In too many cases, the assessment becomes the curriculum,” David M. Steiner said here Wednesday. “If the test is the curriculum, then you’re tempted to teach to the test.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom Rogers to lead Nassau BOCES

October 29th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

Last evening, we issued the following news release:

Rogers to Lead Nassau BOCES

Albany, NY – October 28, 2009 – The New York State Council of School Superintendents (THE COUNCIL) announced that its Executive Director, Dr. Thomas Rogers, will be leaving at the end of the year to assume the position of District Superintendent of the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), headquartered in Garden City, Long Island. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daily Drips from the Paterson Administration

October 27th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

The Paterson Administration has launched a new effort to wear down opposition to the Governor’s proposed mid-year budget cuts — “The Daily DRP.”  DRP stands for Deficit Reduction Plan and presumably is to be pronounced “drip.”

These postings to the Governor’s website each day pose “Did you know?” queries about aspects of the Governor’s budget cutting proposals.

The first focused on the School Aid cuts, with the Administration asking, “Did you know that 95 percent of school districts have reported undesignated reserves in excess of their proposed DRP reduction?”

The post goes on to note,”For a district by district breakdown of reported reserves, go to the State Education Department’s property tax report card website at

Reacting to this effort, I’m quoted in today’s Albany Times Union:

“We’re all heading for the same cliff, the state and schools,” said Robert Lowry, associate director of the state Council of School Superintendents.  “The governor would rather have the schools go off the cliff sooner.”

I don’t think I included the word “rather,” and if I did, I regret that.  It might be taken to suggest an intention and desire to have harm befall schools, and I don’t believe that to be the case.

As I said in our testimony for the Assembly last week on the proposed cuts, “We recognize that no elected official wants to cut aid to schools across the state.”  And, in fact, School Aid’s share of the overall proposed cuts is much smaller than its share of total state spending.

But I also said, “We will not minimize the hardship you face in balancing the state’s finances. Please don’t minimize the challenges confronting school leaders.”

In our testimony, I explained that many districts do foresee a need to cut positions to accommodate the proposed cuts, some through layoffs.  The poorest districts seem to face the worst choices.

Some superintendents have noted that the reserve fund figures on the SED website are out-of-date and inaccurate.  They were estimated last spring and since that time some districts have spent reserves, either on planned expenses or unforeseen emergencies.

Nearly all superintendents expressed alarm at the thought of using-up reserves now, knowing the prospects for further School Aid austerity and surging pension costs.

One upstate superintendent observed, “We are desperately seeking to avoid solving a short-term crisis by creating a long-term catastrophe.”

Exhausting reserves now would send some schools off a financial cliff before they can make better decisions to protect schoolchildren, and before the state can act to help schools reduce the costs they ask taxpayers to share.

Category: Finance, State Budget | 1 Comment »

Duncan calls most teacher preparation programs mediocre

October 23rd, 2009 by Robert Lowry

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered what was deemed a major speech on teacher preparation yesterday at Teachers College, Columbia University.

He said, “By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom.”

The Secretary called for more emphasis on pre-service fieldwork, classroom management, and subject-matter competency.  He also said states should develop longitudinal data systems to track the impact of new teachers from each preparation program on student achievement over a period of years.

The speech won praise from New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Teachers | 1 Comment »

Proposed mid-year School Aid reductions by district now available

October 15th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

The Governor’s Budget Division has now released proposed district-by-district mid-year School Aid reductions.

Available here:

Or go to, then click on “School Aid Reductions”

For more information, see our prior post, directly below.

Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Governor proposes $686 million in mid-year School Aid cuts — Updated 3X

October 15th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

Just a short time ago, Governor David Paterson unveiled plans for mid-year budget cuts to close the state’s current year budget deficit, now estimated at $3 billion.

The plan would cut School Aid by a total of $686 million for the 2009-10 school year, or 3 percent.   The cut would amount to 4.5 percent of undisbursed aid payments.

The cut would save the state $480 million in its current fiscal year. The balance of the school year savings for the state would be realized in the first quarter (April-June 2010) of its next fiscal year.

The Governor’s news release explains,

“The School Aid reduction would be structured progressively based on local fiscal capacity, student need, and residential tax effort. Prior to proposed mid-year actions, enacted 2009-10 school year School Aid was projected to total $21.9 billion, an increase of $415 million or 1.9 percent from 2008-09. enactment of the DRP, overall 2009-10 school year School Aid would total $21.2 billion, a decrease of $271 million or 1.3 percent from 2008-09.”

For now, proposed district-by-district cuts are not available and may not be available today.

UPDATE:  District-by-district proposed reductions are now available here.

Or go to, then click on “School Aid Reductions.”

This is a proposed cut.  It cannot be implemented unless approved by the Assembly and Senate.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said that he would convene hearings before acting on the Governor’s proposals.

UPDATE:  Speaker Silver said the Assembly Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings on the Governor’s mid-year cut proposals next Wednesday (October 21) in Albany and Friday (October 23) in Syracuse.

UPDATE:  The Senate will also hold hearings, starting Monday, October 26th in New York City, and followed by hearings in Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Buffalo.

The New York Daily News reported that Senate Finance Committee Chair Carl Kruger said, “We’re going to differ on the size of the deficit,” and “We’ll analyze what he proposes outside the arena of hysteria and begin the process of dealing with it…”

There would also be cuts to categorical programs, such as Extended School Day, Targeted Pre-K, Summer Special Education, Nonpublic School Aid, and Legislative grants, for example. A list is available here.

The Governor said most other spending areas would be cut by 10 percent.

The STAR program is excluded from cuts.

The Governor’s news release is available here.

Category: Finance, State Budget | Comments Off on Governor proposes $686 million in mid-year School Aid cuts — Updated 3X

National math results revive doubts about state tests

October 15th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

Yesterday, the U.S. Education Department released results for the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) 4th and 8th grade tests in mathematics.

The results brought renewed questioning of the soundness of the state’s grades 3 through testing program.

The New York Times reports, “New York State’s fourth and eighth graders made no notable progress on federal math exams this year, according to test scores released on Wednesday, sharply contradicting the results of state-administered tests that showed record gains.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Budget pain on tap for Thursday?

October 14th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

Reportedly, Governor Paterson will release proposals for mid-year budget reductions tomorrow (Thursday).  Read more here.

Meawhile, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warns that current year budget gap could be larger than the $3 billion figure the Governor has been citing, perhaps as high as $4.1 billion.

More on Thursday.

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Deficit reduction ping pong

October 9th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

The Albany Times Union reports on discussions over how to eliminate the deficit in the state’s current year budget.  The gap is estimated at between $2.1 billion and $3 billion.  The TU described the activity as “political football.”

Ping pong seems a more apt analogy.

As authorized by law, the Governor is unilaterally implementing $500 million in cuts to state agencies for supplies, equipment, travel and contractual services (see my Wednesday post, “Update on state budget woes”).

His Budget Division asked has asked legislative counterparts to share plans to close the remaining gap, but Legislative Leaders have responded by calling on the Governor to “go first.”

More Read the rest of this entry »

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Commissioner Steiner’s Remarks to Council’s Fall Summit (Video)

October 8th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

New State Education Commissioner David Steiner spoke at the Council’s Fall Leadership Summit on Monday – his third weekday on the job. We’re grateful to the State Education Department for sharing a video of the Commissioner’s remarks, and to Monroe I BOCES for making the video.

You can view it here.  It takes a minute or so to load.

Every superintendent I spoke with was impressed by the Commissioner’s remarks.  I thought his words had depth, coherence, and eloquence.

Some highlights follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Leadership, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »