Archive for the 'Achievement Gap' Category

A summit on the mental health crisis among students

May 15th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Next weekend, the New York State School Boards Association is hosting a summit — “Your Role in Addressing the Growing Mental Health Crisis Among Students.” Our organization is one of the co-sponsors.

As I shared in our last blog post, I’ve been struck by the stories superintendents tell of the pain they see in families and communities they serve. Often those stories cite concerns about mental health. That concern has come to stand out in one of our annual surveys as well.

For six years now, the Council has surveyed school district superintendents on financial concerns. Trying to end on an “up” note, each year we have concluded by asking,

“If your district were to receive an increase in funding beyond what would be needed to fund state mandates and your current level of services, what would be your top three priorities for the use of that funding?”

In each of the last three years, “Increase counseling, social work, mental health or similar services for students” has ranked as the second leading priority, behind only “Increase extra academic help for struggling students,” which has been the top ranked priority in all six years.

We did not add the option for mental health and similar services until our third annual survey:  in the aftermath of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut horror, it was striking how often superintendents professed concern about what had been happening to the availability of mental health services.

In fact, the vast majority of people suffering with mental illness are no more likely than the rest of the population to commit violent crime; they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

But the point stands:  superintendents were alarmed about diminishing access to mental health services for their students and families.

If anything, our survey findings suggest their alarm has grown:  the share of superintendents picking mental health, counseling and social work as one of three top funding priorities has also climbed each year, from 22 percent in 2013, to 35 percent for this school year.

Kudos to NYSSBA for arranging next weekend’s summit.

Below the break is a table summarizing the survey findings and giving some additional observations.

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Education, the economy and the election

May 14th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

We are reviving our blog after a hiatus of over a year. This post first appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Council’s monthly newsletter. We will be returning to themes that it covers in future posts.

In my travels around the state and other encounters last fall, I was impressed by stories of pain superintendents shared – not stories of pain within their schools, although there were those, but pain in the families and communities they serve.

At one regional stop, a superintendent told a state legislator, “Our kids’ teeth are worse than they used to be,” and, “Some of our kids come to kindergarten never having seen a dentist.”

Others told of grandparents raising children, because their actual parents were afflicted with substance abuse or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. When asked by a legislator how parent engagement might be encouraged, a few said of the parents in their communities, “They’re doing the best they can.”

Some explained how school buildings are the only sites for youth and adult communities services in their regions.

In December meetings of our State Legislative Committee, superintendents shared counts of opioid deaths in their communities with executive and legislative staff and explained their efforts to provide health and mental health services in their schools.

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Home Room — September 18, 2012

September 18th, 2012 by Robert Lowry

In this post :  implementing evaluations, superintendents praised for resourceful financial leadership, the Chicago teachers strike, and the Governor’s Education Reform Commission.

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Odds and ends — state finances, NYC tenure reviews, cheating

July 29th, 2011 by Robert Lowry

In this post:

  • NYC tenure approval rate down to 58 percent
  • Impact of federal debt ceiling debacle on New York State
  • State revenue outlook
  • Cheating

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Back to school column by State Education Commissioner David Steiner UPDATED

September 8th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Today’s New York Daily News carries a column by State Education Commissioner David Steiner titled, “Back to school, back to reform: N.Y. education commissioner charts a course to higher standards.”

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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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More time for learning?

September 30th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

Several papers around the state have had articles citing President Obama’s call for a longer school day and year.  See here, here, and here, for example.

Back in April, I participated in a “student town hall meeting” on “Why is there so much reluctance to reconfigure the school year?”  It was conducted by Albany public radio station WAMC with students from Berlin Central High School, in rural Rensselaer county.

When I got a chance to speak, I told the students, “Before we can ask taxpayers to pay for more time, our first obligation is to assure them that we are using the time we have now to best advantage.”

So I asked the students, what they thought — are we using the time we have now the best we can?  They were unanimous in saying no, a lot of time is not well-used, especially in the senior year.  A few said they wished class periods were longer.

I also noted that most students do pass state tests, meet state standards, and graduate from high school.  The implication of that is that most students don’t need more time to learn what we expect them to learn — some do, but most do not.

But it also begs the question — do we have the right expectations, or should we be asking more of students?  The students who responded felt we should be aiming higher in our standards.

I did say, to the horror of my own children, that I think we should have a longer school year, and we should be using the time differently.

By the way, the kids were impressive and the WAMC program was a wonderful example of the power of career-like experiences to engage students in learning.  It was evident many of the students had invested lots of effort into researching the subject.

You can listen here.

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NYSUT President: Taking charge of our professions

September 23rd, 2009 by Robert Lowry

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi warns members of his union, “The economic and political realities we face today make it critical that we act to support one another and to take charge of our professions before others — some well-meaning, but many not — define our professions for us.”

Writing in NYSUT’s bi-weekly New York Teacher (“Taking charge of our professions“), Mr. Iannuzzi observes,

Indeed, to take charge of our profession, we must be willing to develop and accept sound, research-based changes even when they make us uncomfortable; we must be willing to reject unwise changes; and we must develop the skills to demonstrate the difference.

He continues by addressing two issues that arise in New York State’s bid for a share of the $5 billion federal “Race to the Top” education reform fund — the roles of student performance data and charter schools.

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Regents to discuss graduation rate issues, ending local diploma option

September 10th, 2009 by Robert Lowry

The State Board of regents meets in Albany next week and will continue discussions of issues concerning graduation rates.

Several of the issues the Regents will consider only indirectly affect students.  For example, for purposes of federal school accountability system requirements, the Regents will consider whether to give districts some credit for students who take more than four years to earn a high school diploma and how demanding do the the regents want to make graduation rate goals?

There is one issue to be discussed which does directly affect students.  A background paper prepared for the discussion asks, “Do the Regents wish to continue to implement the phase-out of the local diploma option for general education students?”

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Council outlines hopes, concerns for new Commissioner

September 2nd, 2009 by Robert Lowry

On Monday, incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner had a column in the New York Post outlining his views of commitments that schools and policymakers need to make to schoolchildren.

On the same day we sent Dr. Steiner a letter outlining hopes that superintendents hold for his leadership of education in New York State, as well as observations on challenges he will face.

You can read it here.

The letter was developed with ample suggestions from the Council’s House of Delegates.

It includes thoughts on new standards, better assessments, closing achievement gaps, “re-imagining” how education is structured and delivered, charter schools and the State Education Department of the future.

It also cautions against “one size fits all policies,” discusses the financial pressures school leaders feel, and explains the practical perspective superintendents bring to policy-making discussions — they are the leaders who are held accountable for making state policies work at the local level.

The advent of new leadership in high state offices is an apt time for the Council and other organizations to reconsider and restate positions on core policy issues.

Category: Achievement Gap, Finance, Leadership, Standards & Assessments | 1 Comment »