2010-09-08 / Editorial

New school year ushers in higher standards for students

HOWARD S. SMITH Williamsville School Superintendent
As an educator, I love September. It is a chance to begin again and to renew our efforts to make lasting changes in the lives of our students. In Williamsville, we welcomed back about 10,500 students this week to what promises to be another successful school year.

Howard SmithHoward Smith Recently, it was announced that New York is one of nine states to win Race To The Top (RTTT) funding in round two of the federal grant competition. The money will be used to help low-performing schools, improve state testing and curriculum, establish a statewide data system to track student performance, increase the number of charter schools, and reform the teacher/principal evaluation process.

To bolster its RTTT application, the state implemented one part of its sweeping reform agenda in late July when new proficiency standards on state assessments for students in grades three through eight were announced. The timing of the new higher proficiency levels and the exponential growth in the need for academic intervention services by students now deemed below proficiency in English language arts and mathematics, pose a huge challenge for schools. Williamsville experienced a 14 percent drop in ELA proficiency and 13 percent in mathematics on the 2010 assessments. However, our students performed similarly year-to-year and in some cases, a bit better. The decline in performance is based solely on the state’s new benchmarks.

The need for academic intervention may impact the ability of some students to participate in certain electives or extracurricular activities, particularly at our middle schools. We are committed to helping those students who now find themselves below the newly-defined proficiency levels and will work hard to mitigate schedule conflicts as much as possible.

Another major component of the state’s reform agenda is revised teacher and principal evaluation procedures. According to State Education Commissioner David Steiner, the goal of the new evaluation system is to ensure that there is an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective leader in every school. An advisory committee will be convened to work with the Commissioner and help develop the provisions of the new evaluation statute. I have been asked to chair a statewide task force of school superintendents to collect input and suggestions from the field and provide pertinent information to this important committee. I will work to ensure that the regulations promulgated will be focused on doing what is best for students and what is best for public education in the state.

In other important matters concerning our schools, this summer we completed work on new science classrooms and laboratories at East and South high schools. In a separate project, solar panels were installed at Casey Middle School as a result of the District’s partnership with the New York Power Authority. The new 78-kilowatt power system is expected to generate about 30 percent of the electricity used by the school.

As the year commences, we will keep our focus on doing what is best for students and will work tirelessly to warrant the ongoing support of our community. Stay informed about Williamsville schools by visiting our website regularly at www. williamsvillek12. org.

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