Now What? Life in New York After Race To The Top

Now_WhatThere is no shortage of education-related controversy in New York. There is additional uncertainty about the future of the Regents Reform Agenda and other important initiatives as the Race To The Top funding winds down. The instructional leaders from across New York, at the request of the District Superintendents, prepared a list of recommendations for the future. That report, Now What? Life in New York After Race To The Top, provides the context for education in New York and also identifies these five recommendations:

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What is so Special About Specially Designed Instruction?

According to NYS Educational Laws and Regulations, Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) is defined as:  “adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student under this Part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from the student’s disability; and to ensure access of the student to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards that apply to all students.

What does that mean in the classroom? How can a teacher plan for and address the needs of his or her students? Here is an easy step by step guide:

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Education is the Best Medicine…


1 Alyson Stiles is the first Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital patient to use the smart board installed in the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital classroom. Pictured with Stiles is OCM BOCES teacher Mary Ellen Michalenko.

when it comes to the ‘Staying Connected is Good Medicine’ program at the Golisano Children’s Hospital

School is a normal part of childhood. For children undergoing treatment, school can offer a familiar and reassuring routine, as well as a feeling of being in step with the outside world. School gives children a chance to keep a sense of identity and (provides) hope for the future (St. Jude’s).  Mary Ellen Michalenko, an OCM BOCES teacher who works fulltime in the Golisano Children’s Hospital, echoed this sentiment, “It’s essential that our patients keep up with their course work, because it makes returning to school that much easier.”  According to Shaw and McCabe, “current estimates indicate that 18% of all children have chronic illnesses, and 6.5% suffer an illness severe enough to interfere with normal school activities.”  In any given year, Mrs. Michalenko can work with more than 150 students, and the duration within the program for students can range from a few days to several months. “Children with chronic illness are absent from school for an average of 16 days a year compared to around 3 days absent for healthy children (McCabe, 2008).”

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Historical Thinking = Sagacious* Use of Primary Sources (and the Internet)

This blog has been challenging for me to write this month. Usually an idea crops up from my day to day work with teachers that begs to be blogged about, but I have been spinning my wheels for a while here. Maybe it’s the latest blast of winter weather that has me struggling to find a juicy thesis about a timely historical thinking topic. Whatever the issue, I’m going to keep writing until something happens! Fasten your seat belts; this could be a bumpy ride!

Over the past couple of days I have been thinking about: writing this blog, the class I’m teaching on Writing in Social Studies, the TAH Teaching Fellows group that will meet next week, the teacher field trips and the History Book Group that I need to pull together, the Participation in Government FOCUS Interest Group that we hope to continue, a Teacher Leadership Retreat we need to plan and my upcoming trip to the National Council for History Education Conference. All of that thinking (and some reading along the way) led me to ponder the use of primary sources and how we use them in our teaching, which, in turn, suggested these questions:

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Physical Activity

SowShoeingIt’s recommended that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  Physical activity has been proven to improve concentration and academic performance.  Since children spend so much time in school, it’s the perfect environment to get some of their daily physical activity.

A Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) is a coordinated approach for schools to create multiple opportunities where students can be physically active and develop skills to last a lifetime.  Continue reading

To Grammar or Not to Grammar

ChildWritingDuring February’s Network Team Institute in Albany, my colleagues and I spent some time digging in to the Common Core’s Foundational and Language standards, as well as analyzing the current research regarding reading foundations.  After speed walking the concourse from the Egg to the New York State Museum’s classrooms, we arrived at our first session… sweaty and a little more than slightly out of breath… but eager to begin.  We started an activity called “From Frenzy to Focus,” during which we were instructed to very briefly review a variety of research articles and select one to focus on. Continue reading

PBL Nurtures a Growth Mindset

MindsetAs our Network Team and CIA staff have been reading Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset for the past few months, I’ve been seeing connections to our vision of changing education for all of our students in the Central New York region.  The movement towards Project-Based Learning (PBL) in our area school districts is about changing the way our students learn so they are prepared for their future, not our past. Weaving 21st Century competencies, such as critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration/innovation, with the significant content of Common Core Learning Standards, Literacy Standards and other content area standards creates learning that is deeper and more relevant for our students.  An inquiry-based approach to understanding content gives students the opportunity to drive their learning and generates more engaged students in our classrooms. Our collected effort in making significant shifts in our instructional practices will be for nothing unless we can also develop a growth mindset in our staff and students. Continue reading

March Madness

BBallLiving in Central New York and as an alumna from Syracuse University, March Madness and basketball has been part of life for many years.  March is often the month that our schedules are especially full and thus we know yours are also. Perhaps, it is because March has no holidays with vacations or we sense that it is the final stretch before warm weather and assessments or we are participating in projects that are culminating.  Nevertheless, March seems to be a prime time for staff development and working with teachers. In the world of staff development, we are also experiencing March Madness. Continue reading

Suggestions on How to Develop a Top Notch STEM Program

For this month’s STEM Blog, I would like you to meet top-notch STEM program developer Dr. Susan Pruet. Susan has directed two remarkably successful NSF-funded school reform efforts involving STEM education:  Maysville/Mobile Math Initiative and, more recently, the middle grades program Engaging Youth through Engineering.

Susan seems to have a talent and a well-designed process for establishing successful STEM reform initiatives.  She does a remarkable job joining hands with teachers, administrators, and community & business leaders to make it happen. Here are 7 tips Susan thinks you should know up front when trying to implement a successful, sustainable STEM Program. Continue reading

The 2014 Sochi Olympics – fun language facts

OlyLogoI love the Olympics.  I love the pomp and circumstance, the glitz and glamour, the thrill of victory and even the agony of defeat.  As an armchair traveler who has yet to be able to travel to the Olympics firsthand, I look forward to learning about the host country and the athletes’ countries through the Olympic games.  The Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony and learning about the culture and languages of the host country is one of my favorite events.  This year I began to consider the role of language. Continue reading