APPR Transition

The Board of Regents just confirmed the “transition” amendments to the Annual professional Performance Review (APPR) System.

What does this mean? Most of all, it is important to note that all districts must still complete their APPR plan as approved, whether a §3012-c or §3012-d plan. The emergency changes to the APPR regulations mean that for some people (those connected to 3-8 state assessments and state-provided growth scores) districts will also provide a transition score. Continue reading

The Least Restrictive Environment

The NYSED recently released a field advisory entitled, School Districts’ Responsibility to Provide Students with Disabilities Specially Designed Instruction and Related Services in the Least Restrictive Environment. The advisory provides reminders for Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Federal and State requirements and serves to help raise the awareness of parents and districts to maximize the participation of students with disabilities. It also identifies components of quality inclusive programming and provides a draft policy proposal that identifies, among other things, changes in reporting requirements.

As per the field advisory and in preparation for proposed policy that includes both preschool and school-aged programs, the Department recommends that districts: Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Overcoming Barriers, Part 4

We have arrived at the fourth and final installment in a series of four about the challenges that students have with using primary sources for historical inquiry as presented in the Jeffery Nokes’ article “Recognizing and Addressing the Barriers to Adolescents’ ‘Reading Like Historians’” (Nokes 2011). After a review of the research on historical thinking in the classroom, Nokes identifies four barriers to student success and presents some ideas for what teachers can do about it in the classroom. Nokes says that analyzing historical documents taxes students’ cognitive resources beyond their bounds; students have limited historical background knowledge and misapply the background knowledge they have; and students tend to hold unsophisticated views of the world. Our final barrier to successful historical thinking is that students have a false sense of what it means to study history. Continue reading

Heart Healthy Kids

February marks American Heart Month, so let’s take a look at how we can address kids’ heart health. It’s commonly understood that heart disease is the leading cause of death nationally for both men and women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1999-2013). We’ve known for a long time that heart disease—along with diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and some cancers—is considered to be an obesity-related health issue. The current rate of adult obesity in New York is 27%, which has been steadily rising (with the exception of a slight decline in 2011-2012) since 1990 when it was 9.3%. (The State of Obesity, 2015).

In young children, however, we’re seeing signs of progress. The CDC released a report in 2013 that showed that, among 2-to 4-year olds from low-income families, there was a statistically significant decline in obesity rates between 2008-2011(14.6% to 14.3%). We’ve also seen rates decrease among teens. Great news, right?! It most certainly is, because we know that the majority of cases of heart disease don’t just develop overnight in adulthood…..

….they begin in childhood. The Bogalusa Heart Study began in 1972 when a pediatric cardiologist from Bogalusa, Louisiana, thought it prudent to study the precursors of adult cardiovascular diseases. He started researching the behavioral and biologic risk factors of cardiovascular disease in youth and continued to follow them for many years. The major findings?

  • Observations clearly show that the major causes of heart-related diseases begin in childhood, with documented anatomic changes occurring as early as 5 to 8 years of age.
  • Autopsy studies show signs of atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta and coronary vessels, as well as in the vasculature of other organs, indicating atherosclerosis and hypertension begin early in life.
  • Environmental factors (diet, exercise and cigarette smoking) are significant and influence abnormally elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension, and obesity. As such, children should be introduced to healthy lifestyles as early as possible.

So, what can parents, teachers and our greater society do to make our kids more heart healthy? The revamp of the federal school meal programs under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a step in the right direction. The “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards include:

  • more fruits and veggies, whole grains, leaner proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
  • lower levels of fat, sugar and sodium in foods and beverages along with more nutritionally dense choices.
  • options to vary foods among elementary, middle and high school age groups.
  • restrictions on fundraisers sold during the school day (e.g. candy bars, bake sales, etc.).
  • requirements that all foods/beverages sold in schools meet the same dietary guidelines, whether from the lunch line, snack shacks or vending machines.

Teachers can take these standards a step further and encourage parents to send their kids to school with healthy snacks. Whether it’s snack time, birthday parties or classroom celebrations of any kind, shifting the focus away from overly-processed, high-fat, sugary foods to “real” food (e.g. fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt parfaits, whole grain tortilla chips and salsa, etc.) will reset kids’ palates so that they actually prefer the taste of healthier foods. Even better, get them moving! Encourage students to choose physical activity-based activities for celebrations, like extra recess time or a game in the gym. Allow students to choose fun items from a “party cart” (e.g. birthday tiara, slinkies, feather boas, crafts, etc.) or allow them special privileges (e.g. choice of story to be read, first in line for lunch, etc.). Suggest that student groups or the school as a whole focus on non-food fundraising.

These same practices apply at home. Parents can set limits on the amount and types of foods and beverages of minimal nutritional value that are kept in the house, encourage more physical activity outdoors, and limit screen time for their kids. Check out The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Pinterest and The ASHA Leader Blog for exceptionally fun and creative ideas! And, remember that even these seemingly small steps are steps in the right direction for their heart health.

Mcneill_Stacy_150px_1411Be well,
Program Coordinator, School Wellness

Planning for Public Products—a Piece of Cake!

From PBL 101 training, we learn that student teams answer the driving question or solve the problem through their public product. The public product is used to display student learning, which is presented to an audience who will provide feedback for improvement with the product and/or the accuracy of the learning.

Presenting student learning through a public display is an important aspect to project-based learning because it adds to the authenticity of the learning experience. For example, student teams create interactive timelines of the history of their community using and Two local historians, both members of the Continue reading

From Standards to Students

When planning a lesson or unit of study, the first question we ask ourselves is, “What do we want students to know and be able to do?” Followed shortly by, “How will the students and I know when they are successful?” From there, we plan for instruction; I think of this as creating that pathway that will serve to direct students toward mastery. And we can all agree that when the students follow that pathway, then the learning that results is deep and transferable. Often, once that pathway is created, the teacher tends to lead, but if it is self-direction that we crave for our learners, then we have to start thinking about approaching instruction differently. Continue reading

My Look Back at 2015-A Year of Expanding My Vision for ELLs!

Since it’s traditional to take a look back at the previous year’s events each January, I thought it would be fun to try and chronicle some of the myriad of initiatives and improvements made for English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York State in 2015. As I thought about all of the events which occurred around ELLs/MLLs (Multilingual Language Learners) in 2015, I was amazed! We are truly in a very exciting time of great transformation. One important transition to me was the movement away from students being thought of as Limited English Proficient (LEP) to that of being Multilingual Learners as a way of describing our ELLs. It portrays a much more positive view of language learning and bilingualism/multilingualism as an asset rather than a deficit.

This mindset shift is aligned with the new vision laid out by the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages Blueprint for ELL Success. The Blueprint for English Language Learners Success is Continue reading