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News and Notes

We hope 2015 is off to a great start and thank you for all the hard work you're doing to advance teaching and learning across New York State. In this issue of News & Notes, students and educators show us how they're making progress in reaching higher standards in a number of exciting ways. 


First, there is an update on the administration of the January 2015 Regents exams. 


Also in this newsletter, you can watch a video blog post by a Manhattan middle school teacher who describes the difference in math instruction - before and after the Common Core - as his students engage in group problem solving. On Long Island, kindergartners show us how they're using technology in library class to reinforce what they're learning in the classroom.


Our new video series, "ELA Studio Talk," features veteran educators David Liben and Meredith Liben, who offer fresh insights and concrete steps to improve literacy instruction in the elementary school classroom. We also get an inside look at how two districts are using the Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (STLE) grant and school-community partnerships to expand STEM education.


In addition, a high school ELA teacher in Northern New York writes about the importance for her students to delve into non-fiction texts in order to better analyze fiction. Plus, there's some news from the Special Education office.

January 2015 Regents Exams

The State Education Department has announced that - as a result of the winter storm expected to impact much of the State - school districts will be given flexibility to administer all January 2015 Regents exams and Regents Competency Tests (RCTs) affected by the weather. This one-time change, made after consulting with colleagues in the field, is intended to ensure the safety of all students and school employees while preserving the integrity of the State exams.


Exams rescheduled because of the weather should be administered as close as possible to the original administration window and, in all cases, must be completed by the end of the school day, Friday, January 30, 2015.


When the storm has passed, each school and district leader in a school or district impacted by weather-related closures must send to the Department a description of the date(s) on which schools were closed due to weather, which January Regents Exams and RCTs had to be canceled, when they  plan to administer the tests, and a comprehensive plan to ensure the security of exams and scoring materials during this time period.  

Video: Math before and after Common Core
"Skill and drill." That's the way it used to be, says math teacher Peter Schmitt of the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School. Listen to how he describes the change in his classroom with Common Core Learning Standards, and how it's affecting students and his own role as educator.

Click here to watch the video. 

Video: Kindergarten Library Class & Technology
The Common Core standards are helping teachers in all areas share learning content - including integrating background knowledge into library/media instruction. That includes Mrs. Peterson's kindergarten library class in the East Moriches Union Free School District on Long Island, where students are working in the computer lab on the same Christopher Columbus unit they're studying in class. 

Click here to watch the video. 

Video: ELA Studio Talk Series

Watch this video series to learn more about must-haves for literacy instruction in the elementary school classroom. David Liben and Meredith Liben focus on topics like struggling readers in the early years, the PreK-2 literacy curriculum on EngageNY, using read-alouds for instruction, close reading and instructional-level high-volume reading, and the critical role of the foundational standards. 

Click here to watch the video series. 

Video: STLE Grants Helping to Expand STEM Education Across Districts

Watch how two school districts are using Teacher Leaders, funded through the Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (STLE) grant, to expand Science, Engineering, Math and Technology (STEM) education across their districts. Educators in the Freeport Union Free School District are taking advantage of collegial circles, professional development, and co-teaching opportunities to incorporate STEM initiatives at the elementary level. Ballston Spa School District serves as a regional "platform school" for STEM development through the support of school-community partnerships with local businesses. 

Click here to watch the videos. 

Engaged Voices Blog Post

This post from our EngagedVoices educator blog features Andria Finch, a high school English Language Arts teacher at the Franklin Central School District. Andria discusses how reading non-fiction texts helps her students understand and analyze fiction in this blog post. 

As a 15-year veteran teacher of Secondary English Language Arts, I challenge myself daily by asking: how can I help my students not only grow in their reading ability, but also analyze the content they're reading and learn how to build their knowledge from the content?  Students enter my class at a wide range of ability levels in reading and some enter tenth grade as struggling readers. Research has pointed to the critical importance of reading ability throughout a students' educational experience and has even been shown as predictive of such outcomes as graduating high school on time.  It has also been determined as an essential link to socioeconomic opportunity and civic involvement.

As my students' only tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade English teacher, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to prepare them for their future endeavors.  Reading is a foundational key to unlocking the door to a student's post high school goals, whether that is a career, higher education, personal development or engaged citizenship.


Read more. 

News from the Office of Special Education


2014-15 Application for Exception to the One Percent Cap on Proficient or Above Scores Based on Alternate Achievement Standards


The application by which local educational agencies may request an exception from NYSED to exceed the 1.0 percent cap in counting as proficient and advanced for accountability purposes, during the 2014-15 school year, the scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities based on alternate academic achievement standards is now available at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/timely.htm